Vlaams Belang


Vlaams Belang

Infobox_Belgian_Political_Party
party_name=Vlaams Belang
party_logo=
party_wikicolourid=Vlaams Belang
leader=Bruno Valkeniers
foundation=2004
ideology=Nationalism, Separatism, National conservatism, Right-wing populism
international="none"
european="none"
europarl=Non-Inscrits
colours=Yellow/Black
cartel=VB/VLOTT
(only in municipal elections)
names=Vlaams Blok
headquarters=national secretariat
Madouplein 8 bus 9 Brussel
website= [http://www.vlaamsbelang.be/ www.vlaamsbelang.be]

Vlaams Belang (English: Flemish Interest) is an anti-immigration right-wing political party in the Flemish Community of Belgium that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration, whereby immigrants would be obliged to adopt Dutch culture [ [http://www.vlaamsbelang.org/files/20041212_programma.pdf Offical party material; see page 22 or search 'Nederlandse cultuur'.] ] and language. VB rejects multiculturalism, although it accepts a multiethnic society as long as people of non-Flemish backgrounds assimilate Dutch culture. Although the party characterizes its current policies as those of a traditional conservative party, many observers describe it as far right. nl icon [http://www.mo.be/article.aspx?ed_id=57&a_id=469&type=mondiaal Democratie went niet aan extreem-rechts] ("Democracy doesn't get accustomed to the far right"), MO, June 2006, p. 51] [nl icon Hooghe, Marc. "Ik of de chaos" - recept speelt in voordeel van Patrick Janssens ("Me or chaos - recipe gives advantage to Patrick Janssens"), De Tijd, 12 September 2006, p. 4.] [cite news|first=|last=|authorlink=|author=|coauthors=|title=Poll gain for Belgium's far right|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6032331.stm|format=HTML|work=|publisher=BBC|pages=|page=|date=2006-10-09| accessdate= 2006-10-14| language= ] [cite news|first=|last=|authorlink=|author=|coauthors=|title=Far-right party suffers rebuff in Antwerp|url=http://198.65.148.234/world/20061009-101945-5917r.htm|format=HTML|work=|publisher=The Washington Times|pages=|page=|date=2006-10-10|accessdate=2006-10-14|language=] [cite news|first=Philippe|last=Siuberski|authorlink=|author=|coauthors=|title=Far-right makes strong showing in Belgian local elections AFP|url=http://uk.news.yahoo.com/08102006/323/far-right-makes-strong-showing-belgian-local-elections.html|format=|work=|publisher=Agence France-Presse|pages=|page=|date=2006-10-08|accessdate=2006-10-14]

History

Volksunie and Vlaams Blok

Like its predecessors, the right wing of the Volksunie and Vlaams Blok, the Vlaams Belang is part of the ideologically diverse Flemish movement. When the Volksunie in the 1970s, under party president Hugo Schiltz attracted more liberal politicians, and accepted Belgian federalism, this did not sit well with the party's nationalist right wing, particularly after the party entered the coalition government of Leo Tindemans and in 1978 agreed to the Egmont pact. [nl icon "Ik wilde iets doen voor mijn volk" (" 'I wanted to do something for my people' "), Gazet van Antwerpen, 7 August 2006, page 3.]

The wing created two new small parties, the "Vlaams-Nationale Partij" ("Flemish National Party", VNP), presided by Karel Dillen, and the "Vlaamse Volkspartij" ("Flemish People Party", VVP) with the former VU senator Lode Claes. They participated in the 1978 general elections as a coalition under the name of "Vlaams Blok" and one of the coalition's parliamentary candidates, MP, Karel Dillen, won. Later, both parties merged into the "Vlaams Blok" (English: "Flemish Bloc"). Lode Claes decided not to join the new party because of differing views on nationalism and right wing politics. [nl icon cite book|last = Witte|first = Els|coauthors=Craeybeckx, Jan|title=Politieke geschiedenis van België sinds 1830 (Political History of Belgium Since 1830)|publisher=Standaard Wetenschappelijke Uitgeverij|year=1985|location=Antwerpen|pages=555-556|id=ISBN 90-02-15260-4]

The Vlaams Blok's main growth started in 1991, when it increased its number of members of parliament from 2 to 12, gaining 6.6% of the vote. In 2003, the Vlaams Blok received 11.6% of the vote with 18 MPs elected.


= Trial = In 2002, three non-profit organisations that in effect constituted the core of the Vlaams Blok party were sued by the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism and the Liga voor Mensenrechten for "incitement to hate and discrimination." The organisations were condemned by the Appeals Court of Ghent in April 2004 for "repeated incitement to discrimination." The party's appeal of the verdict was rejected by the High Court in November 2004. [ [http://jackosheas.com/news/newsstory.cfm?story_no=1124 Court says Vlaams Blok conviction is sound] , "Expatriate Online", retrieved January 26, 2006.]

Following this conviction, the Vlaams Blok party disbanded itself in 2004. The former Vlaams Blok party leadership and members subsequently established the Vlaams Belang. According to the Belgian state security service, this was merely a cosmetic act. [http://www.nrc.nl/next/article505778.ece] ] To some observers, comments made by the leaderships of the old and new parties read along the same lines. ["The well behaved right wing is a fantasy. The Vlaams Belang is the Vlaams Blok." " [...] political commentators thought or hoped that the Vlaams Belang would abjure the Vlaams Blok to become a large conservative party for Flanders. We never saw it that way. From the conviction and the foundation of the new party onwards, our credo was: we are the same and we will remain the same. We are changing our name only because we have to." Gerolf Annemans, P-Magazine, 27 September 2005.] The Belgian State Security Service noted that the party was forced to change its name and to rid its platform of racist elements. The "launch of the new name Vlaams Belang was paired with a publicity campaign that had the intention of creating an image of respectability". [cite web|title=Year report 2005|url=http://www.standaard.be/extra/pdf/staatsveiligheid.pdf|publisher=Belgian State Security Service|format=PDF] Changes to the party platform have been made to allow it to comply with the law, and the motto of Vlaams Blok, "Eigen volk eerst" ("Our own people first"), has been dropped, though it is still used by party leaders and members in meetings.

Vlaams Belang supporters, such as N-VA member and law professor Matthias Storme, see the trial in which the Vlaams Blok was condemned as a political trial. [nl icon [http://www.heemland.nl/hl30-Discrimineren_is_mensenrecht.htm Discrimineren is een mensenrecht] ("Discrimination is a human right"), Katholiek Nieuwsblad, 21 January 2005] Some also claim that the Belgian establishment had changed the law for the purpose of this trial. [ [http://www.stephenpollard.net/001564.html I've seen the future: it's scary and Belgian] ] "Pro Flandria", an independent organization consisting of academia and businesspeople, wrote an open letter about the trial in 2003, saying that "political opponents should be fought in open forums, using arguments, so that a voter can make up his mind... A court should not be misused for a political retaliation that cannot be made through political means." [cite news|title=28 Vlamingen roepen op tot politieke aanpak Vlaams Blok|publisher=De Standaard|date=2003-03-08]

According to the law professor, Lamine (KUL), a former VB member and main advisor of the party's legal team, the party, for propaganda reasons, purposely mounted a weak defence in order to lose the case: "For the party leaders, losing was much more interesting. Winning just wasn't an option." [nl icon [http://www.demorgen.be/archief/artikel.html?i=MjMxMTA=&log_query_id=1696244&articletable=artikels2006&keyword=Luc%20Lamine Eigen voetvolk bijlange niet meer eerst] , De Morgen, 22 July 2006, p. 26 (subscription required).] Lamine himself had earlier stated that the VB should have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but VB senator Joris Van Hauthem had already stated in 2005, that: "If we had gone to Strasbourg [ECHR] based on procedural arguments, we might have had a case. But Lamine already put in a private claim to overturn the Appeals Court verdict, on the basis of substantive arguments. If Vlaams Belang were to put forth a claim against the verdict as well, at Strasbourg, the Court will bundle both cases. Then we would lose the case for sure. Lamine has thus given us the final blow ." Lamine denied this: "The party legal department's head doesn't know what he's doing." [nl icon cite news | title= [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=GSFD350H Vlaams Belang niet in beroep tegen veroordeling] | publisher=De Standaard|date=2005-03-07] The judicial service of the Flemish Parliament noted that a procedure at the ECHR would not be able to overturn the Appeals Court conviction that condemnded the Vlaams Blok. Such a procedure could, however, lead to a judgement against the Belgian state ordering it to pay damages. [nl icon [http://www.vlaamsparlement.be/vpWeb/p3app/htmlpages/vp/Pdf/20042005/Home/NotaArrestVB.pdf Vlaams Blok-arrest: beknopte analyse van de gevolgen door de juridische dienst van het Vlaams Parlement] ]
Gerolf Annemans created instant controversy during the inauguration ceremony for the new party by condemning the prosecutors and judges who presided over the case in the Supreme Court and courts of appeal in the following manner: "The names of all main legal figures in this trial are forever engraved in this lawyer's memory; they are warned for the rest of their careers"." [nl icon [http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=cache:i74c-h7KjbMJ:mor.presscollection.com/20041115/public/pages/Krant001/articles/MOR-20041115-Krant001005.html+%22De+namen+van+alle+juridische+hoofdrolspelers+uit+dat+proces+staan+voorgoed+in+het+geheugen+van+d%C3%A9ze+jurist+gegrift:+ze+zijn+gewaarschuwd%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 De Morgen] ] Mr. Annemans claimed this was an emotional outburst on his part in reaction to Marc Timperman, the Supreme Court public prosecutor, laughing at Vlaams Blok's lawyers as the Court's rendered the verdict the week before. Vlaams Belang alleges that Timperman was a "political appointee" (Timperman was deputy chief of staff to VLD justice minister Marc Verwilghen). [cite news|title=Liga Overweegt Klacht Tegen Gerolf Annemans: Ook Wetstraat en Magistratuur reageren verontwaardigd op Uitspraken|publisher=De Tijd|date=2004-11-14] [cite news|title=Twee Gentse Magistraten In|publisher=De Tijd|date=2000-03-01]

2006 Municipal Elections

The Vlaams Belang took part in the 2006 municipal elections on the theme of "Secure, Flemish, Liveable".

In Antwerp, the Vlaams Belang's vote count ran behind that of the Socialist Party, which increased their share of the vote dramatically. Nevertheless, although the VB-VLOTT coalition got only 0.5% more votes than in the previous election, it gained 20 seats: 18 seats to Vlaams Belang and 2 to its coalition partner, VLOTT. This echoed the VB's large gain of seats in 2000.

For all Antwerp district councils, except for Center and Borgerhout, the VB showed an increase of its voters share. In two districts, Hoboken and Deurne, VB has the most seats; in the former district, the other parties will have to work together with the Marxist-Leninist Workers Party (PVDA) in order to obtain a majority in the district council, although another party, the N-VA, has ruled out such a coalition. [cite news|title=N-VA wil geen meerderheid met PVDA in district Hoboken|url=http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_274618.html|publisher=Het Laatste Nieuws|date=2006-10-11]

In the rest of Flanders, the Vlaams Belang, like the CD&V, enjoyed a massive increase of votes (the number of VB council members almost doubled, from 439 to about 800). This can be explained in part by the fact that the party ran candidates in more communities' elections than in 2000. In Aalst and Schoten, Vlaams Belang enjoys a plurality although it is unlikely that any party in these or other cities will break the "cordon sanitaire".

Belgian general election, 2007

In the 10 June 2007 general elections, the party won 17 out of 150 seats in the Chamber of Representatives and 5 out of 40 seats in the Senate.

Ideology and issues

Vlaams Belang advocates independence for Flanders and strict limitations on immigration. It is part of the right-wing radical wing of the Flemish movement and is a nationalist party.

Party platform

Some of the main points in the platform include:
* Independence for Flanders. One stated reason for this is the financial transfers from Flanders to the capital of Brussels and to Wallonia (Belgium's other half), which Vlaams Belang considers to be unjustified. [ [http://www.irishclub.be/news/newsstory.cfm?story_no=1737 The gap between Flanders and Wallonia widens] , Expatriate Online, 20 May 2005] Vlaams Belang sees the accompanying high employment cost as very negative for Flanders’ competitiveness.Fact|date=February 2007 The bilingual Brussels Region would for geographical reasons likely be included in an independent Flanders.
* Closer cooperation between Flanders and The Netherlands, falling short of the federation with the Netherlands the former Vlaams Blok used to advocate. Vlaams Belang also wants to develop closer links with those areas in French Flanders where West Flemish is spoken.
* Abolition of administrative and educational facilities for French speakers (translations on demand, bilingual road signs, teaching in French in primary schools) in the six municipalities that occupy the narrow area of Flanders territory between the southern boundary of Brussels and the border of Wallonia (the official language of the Flanders region is Dutch).
* Deportation of all economic immigrants who fail to "assimilate". Those immigrants who want political rights (the rights to vote, to hold elective office, and to hold civil service jobs) should apply for naturalization and forsake their foreign nationality. This implies the repeal of the law granting under certain conditions the right to vote in municipal elections to non-EU foreigners. The "70 Steps Plan" of the former Vlaams Blok for the deportation of immigrants and their descendants has been dropped.
* Opposition to the "Islamisation of Europe", which Vlaams Belang views as a "frightening historical process".
* Blocking Turkey from joining the European Union.
* Reform of the European Union by advocating a small European government and devolution of power to the Regions, so that competition between regions would lead to lower taxes. Vlaams Belang opposes today's allegedly "undemocratic" European Union and refers to it as an emerging unnecessary "monster state".
* Full and unconditional amnesty for people convicted for collaboration with Nazi Germany after World War II. Vlaams Belang claims that many convicts were victims of excesses by the Belgian judiciary system against Flemish nationalists. It also states that it has "equal respect" for the suffering of all the victims during the years of war and the repression afterwards, regardless of whichever side they had sided with, or of whichever side the Belgian judiciary maintained that they had sided with. It states that all other European countries have already granted amnesty, and that the 1961 Belgian "Vermeylen" law is no general amnesty law such as in the Netherlands or France, but only "possibly" grants amnesty after expressing regret about the actions committed.
* Emulating the Dutch and German model, extend the law of self-defense to the defense of home, shop and property.
* Increased child benefits, including provisions which allow one parent, if both employed, to remain at home for the benefit of education for their child or children. This is aimed at increasing the birth rate. Opponents see it as a measure to reinforce traditional male/female roles, and therefore as discriminatory against women.
* Opposition to the law enabling same-sex marriage, and opposition to the law proposal enabling adoption by same-sex couples.
* Abortion to be allowed only in the case of rape or for medical reasons. Vlaams Belang wants to take care of unexpected pregnancies by an elaborated attendance and a relaxation of the adoption and foster parents laws.
* Preservation of the current education system, which was rated by the 2003 Pisa Report as the best out of those reviewed. Analysis by the OECD however reveals that this is only true for native pupils. In the group of nonnative pupils, the Flemish education system scores among the worst of systems reviewed, according to some revealing a structural discrimination against nonnatives. Children of second generation foreigners even perform much worse than those of the first generation. The OECD largely attributes this difference to the fact that in Flanders 54% of the foreign pupils don’t speak Dutch at home and as a consequence don’t have a good command of the Dutch language. According to Vlaams Belang, this lack of language skills is due to failing integration policies of the government and is aggravated because many immigrant males find their bride abroad.
* Repeal of "anti-racism", anti-Negationism and "anti-discrimination" legislation on the grounds of free speech.
* Repeal the 2003 Belgian "nuclear power exit by 2025" legislation. Vlaams Belang wants to revamp the existing nuclear power plants instead of building new ones in France, which would cost many times more.Fact|date=February 2007
* Free market economic policies, such as limiting government intervention. It also advocates a simplified tax system, the flat tax, combined for social purposes with a significant zero taxation threshold to exempt low incomes from taxation.
* Reform of the pension system based upon investment funds instead of the present redistribution system. Vlaams Belang underlines that the Belgian state pension system is currently performing the worst out of all Western European countries. [nl icon [http://www.vlaamsbelang.org/index.php?p=32&id=6&manid=5 Ondernemend Vlaanderen (Toespraak Gerolf Annemans)] ("Enterprising Flanders (Speech Gerolf Annemans)"), 26 November 2005]
* Abolition of the Belgian trade unions' unique pay counter function for unemployment benefits, to step up the trade unions' global interest in creating employment.

"Cordon Sanitaire"

Vlaams Belang is one of the largest Belgian parties, although other parties usually form alliances with their counterparts across the Flemish/Francophone divide (Christian-Democrats, Liberals, Socialists and Greens). It has been growing steadily since 1978, when its predecessor "Vlaams Blok" was formed. Nonetheless, it has no official executive power due to the "Cordon Sanitaire", a pact between the other Belgian parties that rejected Vlaams Blok from any governing coalition because the party's views were considered to be morally and politically unacceptable. Vlaams Belang says that its platform now is legally compliant, rendering the "cordon sanitaire" unjustified. The party, however, would need to convince others to join a coalition because the Belgian political system is based on proportional representation.

After the regional elections in 2004, changes in the perception of the party by the population, as well as the growing strength of the party, made it possible for the Vlaams Blok to be invited briefly for negotiations at the start of the formation of the regional government. In the runup towards the local elections of late 2006, there were signs that the "cordon sanitaire" could be breached in some municipalities, but it wasn't.

Critics of the "cordon sanitaire" argue that it is undemocratic, or that it is not effective in fighting the Vlaams Belang. Indeed, some figures in the other major Flemish political parties question its viability, and some have participated in debates with VB politicians. One Flemish newspaper, "De Standaard", has declared its intention to treat Vlaams Belang like any other party.

In an interview with the popular weekly Humo, Flemish PM Yves Leterme (CD&V) however declared that a local chapter of his party that would form a coalition or close agreements with the Vlaams Belang, wouldn't be considered a part of the CD&V anymore. [ [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF28082006_084 Leterme geeft voorakkoorden toe] ("Leterme admits pre-electoral agreements"), De Standaard, 28/08/2006 (subscription needed)]

Government subsidy

The Vlaams Belang is a very divisive issue in Belgium, particularly in Flanders, as was the former Vlaams Blok. One response to Vlaams Belang has been attempts to cut state funding for the partyBelgian political parties get public funding from both federal and regional parliaments, while private funding is restricted.] When Vlaams Belang was first formed, the funding for the new party in the Flemish Parliament had to be settled. On the one hand the Flemish Parliament statute book doesn’t grant funding to new parties without going to the polls (which would apply to the Vlaams Belang if it were a new party), but on the other hand it can withdraw funding from ‘racist’ parties (which would apply to the Vlaams Belang if it was still the same party as the convicted Vlaams Blok). Vlaams Belang argued that they are the legal successors of Vlaams Blok "yet were a different party". The Flemish Parliamentary office which decides such cases, and where Vlaams Belang’s political competitors have a majority, decided that Vlaams Blok and Vlaams Belang were the same party and thus both “guilty of racism”. But nevertheless, they did not cut the party funding.] (see the Belgian "dry up" law). On the Flemish level, there is no political majority yet for such actions against other parties, as this approach is generally viewed as being counter-productive. Some, particularly Francophones, support it anyway.

On May 18, 2006 the organizations "Kif Kif" and MRAX ("Movement against Racism, Antisemitism and Xenophobia"), backed (as demanded by law) by the political parties sp.a, spirit, PS, MR and CDh (the parties also paid for the legal translation of the complaint [nl icon [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelid=GCISFSM3 Eindelijk klacht tegen Vlaams Belang] ("Finally complaint against Vlaams Belang"), De Standaard, 19 May 2006] ), filed a complaint against Vlaams Belang with the Belgian Council of State. This court has six months to decide whether or not to cancel part of the state funding ("dotation") the party receives, up to 2.1 million Euros yearly. The complaint claims that the Vlaams Belang party is "opposed to the rights granted in the European Convention on Human Rights". It refers to the utterance of Filip Dewinter calling his party "islamophobic" in a Jewish newspaper." [nl icon [http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_209814.html Partijen vragen dotatie Vlaams Belang af te nemen] ("Parties ask to stop dotation Vlaams Belang"), HLN.be] The plaintiffs also state that "the party, for all intent and purpose, still uses the same platform and communication as the Vlaams Blok", that was condemned after a similar complaint. [nl icon [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelid=DMF18052006_031 Partijen vragen Raad van State dotatie Belang af te nemen] ("Parties ask Council of State to stop dotation Vlaams Belang"), De Standaard, 18 May 2006.]

The complaint had been prepared for several months, and some of the complaining political parties had been hesitant to file it. The Vlaams Belang has stated its intention to denounce the majority of the judges because they are francophone or because they are allegedly hostile towards the party. [ [http://www.vrtnieuws.net/nieuwsnet_master/versie2/english/details/061018_vlaamsbelang/index.shtml Vlaams Belang risks losing subsidies] , "VRT", 2006-10-18. Retrieved on 2006-10-18.]

Issues

Some members, such as Roeland Raes have been accused of being Nazi sympathizers. [ [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DST16032001_001 Complaint against Raes] , De Standaard, 16 March 2001.] Roeland Raes was charged with Historical revisionism in accordance with the Belgian Holocaust denial law, specifically for uttering the following controversial sentence: “whether it was planned that they should all die during the war is another question”. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,449278,00.html 'Belgium's far right party in Holocaust controversy '] , the Guardian, Friday March 9, 2001 - nl icon [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DST16032001_001 Centrum-Leman dient klacht in tegen Raes ("Centre Leman files complaint against Raes")] , De Standaard, Friday 16 March 2001] During the interview, Raes however had no doubts about the systematic persecution and deportation of the Jews by the Nazis. The original complaint goes back to 2001. In the meanwhile, the master video tape with the full interview, was lost. [cite news|title=Videoband in zaak Roeland Raes zoek|publisher=De Standaard|data=2006-04-06] Early 2006, at the Public Prosecutor’s request and after a hearing in chambers, the charges were dropped, but after an appeal by the Forum of Jewish Organisations, the case was resumed.

A December 2005 interview by Vlaams Belang frontman Filip Dewinter with the American-Jewish newsweekly "The Jewish Week" included a question if "Jews should vote for a party that espouses xenophobia". Dewinter responded by saying: "Xenophobia is not the word I would use. If it absolutely must be a ‘phobia,’ let it be 'Islamophobia.'" [ [http://www.filipdewinter.be/page.php?linkID=238 The Season Of Dewinter?] , "The Jewish Week", 9 December 2005.]

Politicians, like prime minister Guy Verhofstadt (VLD), Karel De Gucht (VLD) and the late Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn have called the Vlaams Belang or its leaders "fascist". However, history professor Eric Defoort has stated the use of this terminology creates "a distorted image of their antagonist, whom they can then scold with missionary zeal". [ [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=G33B6RSA Zeg niet zomaar "fascist" tegen Dewinter] ("Don't just call Dewinter a "fascist""), De Standaard, 23 December 2004.
[http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=G0CB2JMK "De waarheid kwetst"] (""Truth hurts""), De Standaard, 17 December 2004.
] See an by Flemish secessionist and former N-VA deputy chairman Eric Defoort contesting the historical accuracy of the use (by Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt of the liberal (in the European sense) VLD) of the expression "genuine fascist" to qualify the Vlaams Belang.] [http://www.demorgen.be/archief/artikel.html?i=MTcwNzY1&log_query_id=1729561&articletable=artikels2002&keyword=Fortuyn%20Dewinter%20fascist 'Verhofstadt zoekt het maar uit'] ("Verhofstadt is on his own"), De Morgen, 3 May 2002.]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is known to be a liberal political critic of Islam in the Netherlands, and to whom Vlaams Belang on different occasions referred to defend its points of view on Islam, called the party "a racist, anti-Semitic, extremist party that is unkind to women and that should be outlawed." [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF31012006_030 Hirsi Ali wil Vlaams Belang verbieden] ("Hirsi Ali wants to ban Vlaams Belang"), De Standaard, 31 January 2006.] According to Vlaams Belang, Hirsi Ali had been misinformed. The party considered this to be part of a smear campaign. Vlaams Belang underlined that Hirsi Ali supposedly made the statement on the occasion of a debate organised by the left-liberal think tank Liberales, whose president is Dirk Verhofstadt. Vlaams Belang added that Dirk Verhofstadt is known for regularly publishing accusations against the party. [ [http://www.vlaamsbelang.org/index.php?p=0&id=1491 Beledigen is een recht] ] Vlaams Belang also wrote an open letter to Hirsi Ali. [ [http://www.vlaamsbelang.org/index.php?p=1&id=226 Open brief aan Ayaan Hirsi Ali] ]

On May 31, 2006, former chief of police Bart Debie was sent to criminal court. Mr. Debie is now a security expert and parliamentary cooperator of the party, and was the party's main candidate in the local elections of 2006 in the Borgerhout district. He was elected as council member to the Antwerp municipal council. Debie was prosecuted for "torturing suspects at a police station, breach of the 1981 law on racism and xenophobia and forgery of police reports," acts committed on several occasions between February 1999 and April 2003. Mr. Debie’s defence argues that he is the victim of a reckoning. Debie resigned his commission as chief of police after a preventive suspension for "blurring of moral standards" due to these allegations, and was consequently given his present party functions. [nl icon [http://www.gva.be/nieuws/Antwerpen/default.asp?art={57E488EA-D282-4A26-A4E6-FE6C6A5C92B5} Bart Debie verwezen naar correctionele rechtbank] ("Bart Debie sent to correctional court"), Gazet van Antwerpen, 31 May 2006. - nl icon [http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_215615.html Ex-politiecommissaris Bart Debie (Vlaams Belang) naar strafrechter] ("Former chief of police Bart Debie (Vlaams Belang) to criminal court"), Het Laatste Nieuws, 31 May 2006.] On January 31, 2008 Bart Debie was convicted by the Antwerp Court of Appeal to 4 years imprisonment (of which 1 will be effective), and a fine of 1.250 EUR. He will also lose his civil rights for a period of 5 years, which means he will have to resign as municipal councillor. [nl icon [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF31012008_021 Bart De Bie moet één jaar de cel in] ("Bart De Bie sent to jail for one year"), De Standaard, 31 January 2008.]

On October 1, 2006, a week before the municipal elections, free concerts "against intolerance", named [http://www.0110.be/ "0110"] , were organised in Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent and Charleroi. The Antwerp concert received over 40,000 spectators, the total was over 100,000. [nl icon [http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF01102006_022 Meer dan 100.000 mensen feesten voor verdraagzaamheid] ("Over 100,000 people celebrate for tolerance"), De Standaard, 1 October 2006.] Vlaams Belang sees this as a direct attack by the establishment, [ [http://www.vlaamsbelang.be/index.php Nationale loterij ...] , Vlaams Belang] because the event was sponsored by the Belgian National Lottery. The National Lottery however decided upon the sponsoring contract before the political content was clear. [nl icon [http://www.tijd.be/krant/artikel.asp?ec=TIJD&id=95638351&pg=44 Banken schuwen controverse rond 0110] , De Tijd, 30 September 2006.] The Antwerp mayor Patrick Janssens (SP.a) disapproved of the concerts. [nl icon [http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_228830.html Politieke steun voor Concert van Verdraagzaamheid] , ("Political Support for Tolerance Concert"), Het Laatste Nieuws] The party also referred [ [http://www.vlaamsbelang.be/index.php Barman en vrienden] , Vlaams Belang] to the fact that the official website of the event specifically stated that "Flanders deserves better than extreme right" [ [http://www.0110.be/Charter/ 01/10 Antwerpen, Brussel, Gent] ] and that Tom Barman, the main organisor, had already announced in 2005 that he was planning a concert "against Vlaams Belang" in October 2006. ["Knack", April 6, 2005] The party wrote an open letter to famous Flemish artists, such as Clouseau, Helmut Lotti, Will Tura, Johan Verminnen and Laura Lynn, who it had been announced would participate, asking them not to do so. [nl icon [http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_228524.html Dewinter schrijft open brief naar artiesten] ("Dewinter Writes Open Letter to Artists"), Het Laatste Nieuws] One Vlaams Belang council member called upon the readers of his web log to start a "mail bombardment" to the concerned artists. [nl icon Tom Cochez, "Vlaams Belang voert strijd tegen concert voor verdraagzaamheid op" ("Vlaams Belang Intensifies Battle against Concert for Tolerance"), De Morgen, 8 July 2006.] Critics spoke of an intimidation campaign by the party, but no artist withdrew from the concerts. [nl icon Jeroen Verelst, "Muzikanten zwichten niet voor intimidatie Vlaams Belang" ("Musicians Don't Give In to Intimidation by Vlaams Belang"), De Morgen, 5 July 2006.] At a party meeting on 1 October, Filip Dewinter was quoted saying that "if it really were concerts against intolerance, Vlaams Belang would have to be guest of honour", referring to the cordon sanitaire against the party. [nl icon "Indien het werkelijk om concerten tegen de onverdraagzaamheid zou gaan, zou het Vlaams Belang eregast moeten zijn.", Gazet van Antwerpen, [http://www.gva.be/nieuws/antwerpen/default.asp?art={E7140336-EB1E-4CED-ADA1-F511722A38B1} VB: "0110-concerten tegen Vlaams Belang"] "VB : '0110 concerts against Vlaams Belang' "), 1 October]

On November 15, 2006, party leader Dewinter stated that he will deposit a complaint with De Lijn bus company, for its plan to introduce quota for the employment of immigrants. Dewinter claims that these "quota leads to anti-Flemish racism." He will also call upon the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism to investigate. Ingrid Lieten, director of De Lijn, stated that "De Lijn is in favor of quota and will impose them, especially for women and immigrants." Vlaams Belang alleges that the introduction of the quota means different criteria will be imposed upon citizens and immigrants. [nl iconcite news|title=Dewinter dient racismeklacht in tegen De Lijn|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF15112006_049|publisher=De Standaard|date=2006-11-15]

In April 2007 parliamentarian Jurgen Verstrepen left the party and sided with List Dedecker. Verstrepen was originally brought into the party as a renewing force, in 2004. However, Verstrepen's push of an idea of a united right, what has been termed "Forza Flandria" has not fared well with VB party leader Vanhecke.

Electorate

In 1999, the Vlaams Blok obtained 584,392 votes for the European Parliament elections. In 2004, the party obtained 981,587 votes for the Flemish Parliament and 21,297 votes for the Brussels Parliament.

A study [nl icon Depickere, A. and Swyngedouw, M. Verklaringen voor het succes van extreem rechts getoetst ("Explanations for the success of the far right reviewed"), In: Swyngedouw, M. and Billiet, J. (eds) De kiezer heeft zijn redenen ("The voter has his reasons"), Leuven/Leusden, Acco, 2002, pp. 1-26.] of the 1999 general federal elections by researchers of the KUL yielded some results on the electorate of the Vlaams Blok.

The study showed that it was first and foremost the low educational level that was characteristic for the Vlaams Blok voter. There didn't seem to be a correlation, or a very small one, with age, gender nor occupation.

Another characteristic was the sector of employment. People working in the private sector faced with international competition were overrepresented within the V.B. electorate, while workers from the public sector, in health and social services, with no international competition at all- usually didn't vote for the party. Job insecurity did not seem to have an effect.

As a third characteristic, researchers found that the average V.B. voter had a low opinion of their economic situation. It was not certain that this corresponded with their real situation. Ethnocentricity was a strong reason to vote V.B., as was the feeling of alienation towards politics. There did not seem to be a correlation between the social-economic attitude of a voter and his/her preference for the V.B.

Professor Carl Devos and Dries Verlet of the Political Science Department at the Ghent University see a number of characteristics that differentiate the Vlaams Belang voters from others. There are social demographic characteristics, like social economic status or level of education, and a number of personality traits or attitudes, like a more than average sympathy towards the traditional family values, law and order, or social hierarchy and authoritarianism.
Quite some V.B. voters share fear and uncertainty towards the present day Western European society. They see the expanding social and economic freedom and the diminishing influence of the state as a threatening phenomenon. They look towards far right parties hoping for a clear beacon and guidelines.Democratie went niet aan extreem-rechts]

Party structure

Party organization

The Party Council is the highest organ of the Vlaams Belang party. It has about 80 members, among others the members of the Party Board, parliamentarians, local deputies and the youth organisation of the VB. The Party Council is responsible for choosing the party leader. The party executives throughout the party's organization then get to decide on the nomination. The Party Council is also responsible for fielding a candidate list at election time.

Members and staff

Party Administration

Vlaams Belang members in the Flemish Parliament

Vlaams Belang members in the Brussels Parliament

* Johan Demol
* Frederic Erens
* Dominiek Lootens-Stael
* Erland Pison
* Valérie Seyns
* Jos Van Assche

External links

* [http://www.vlaamsbelang.be/ Official web page]
* [http://www.flemishrepublic.org/manifesto.htm Official Vlaams Belang party manifesto]
* [http://vlaamsblok.be/site_engels_index.shtml Today we were executed. But we will rise] : message by Vanhecke, VB's president, November 9, 2004
* [http://vdare.com/misc/belien_041109_belgium.htm Vdare.com: Anti-Immigration Party Banned In Belgium] November 9, 2004
* [http://www.blokwatch.be/ Blokwatch] Newssite by opponents to Vlaams Belang
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4198910042830580654 La face cachee du Vlaams blok] Documentary by the RTBF concerning the Vlaams Blok made in 2004

News articles

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3995341.stm BBC News: "Blow to Belgium's far right"] 9 November, 2004
* [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/11/10/wbelg10.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/11/10/ixportal.html The Telegraph: "Flemish party banned as racist by Belgium's high court"] 10 November, 2004.
* [http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20041115-124213-7311r.htm The Washington Times: Analysis: "Makeover for Flemish far-right"] November 15, 2004.
* [http://www.washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20050217-084155-2847r.htm The Washington Times: "The emerging ‘Eurabia’"] February 18, 2005.
* [http://www.time.com/time/europe/html/050228/story.html TIME: "Life On The Front Lines: In Antwerp, the far right is facing off against muslims. Who's winning?"] Vol.165 No.9 | February 28, 2005.
* [http://www.minorites.org/article.php?IDA=11455 Haaretz: "Between Haider and a Hard Place" ] - Wednesday 31 August, 2005 (discussed at American Renaissance [http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2005/08/between_haider.php#] )

References


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