Far right makes gains in Wallonia too
15 June 2004
BRUSSELS – The far right Flemish Vlaams Blok’s spectacular success in last weekend’s regional elections in Belgium masked the fact that extremist anti-immigration parties also fared well in many key towns in French-speaking Wallonia, it was reported on Tuesday.
In cities like Charleroi and Mons as well as in the more rural Philipeville region, many communes saw candidates representing the far-right Front National (FN) – the French-speaking equivalent of the Vlaams Blok – win over 15 percent of the vote.
The Front National certainly did not fare as well as the Vlaams Blok, which emerged from Sunday’s regional elections as the second political force in Flanders, with more votes than Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s Flemish Liberal Democrat (VLD) party.
But many analysts said on Tuesday that the FN’s success in the traditional socialist heartland of Wallonia was worrying.
In Charleroi for example, the FN candidate was ranked fifth in Sunday’s poll with a respectable score of 16.9 percent.
In La Botte du Hainault, a predominantly rural region, the far-right French-speaking party scored 11.1 percent while in the Mons-Haut Pays commune the FN’s score was 10.75 percent.
On Tuesday many analysts blamed a mixture of familiar factors for the FN’s rising popularity.
The party did well in areas with relatively high unemployment and where people appear to fear an influx of immigrants.
“Up until ten days ago I did not know who I was going to vote for,” said one Charleroi woman interviewed by La Derniere Heure newspaper.
“Then in front of me, in a building where they house refugees, I saw ten refugees arrive and that’s what lead me to vote FN,” she added.
Another man questioned by La Derniere Heure said he had voted FN because he was fed up with the established political parties in Wallonia.
“A vote for the FN scares the traditional parties,” he said.
“It is a warning cry. Things are not going well and the traditional parties need to wake up to that. But I don’t want the FN to get into power,” he added.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news