BRUSSELS (Oct. 12)
An extreme right-wing party that is xenophobic and favors amnesty for Belgian Nazi collaborators, scored important gains in the local elections Sunday.
The Flemish Bloc won eight seats in the Antwerp City Council, to emerge as the third largest political faction there, after the Socialists and Social-Christians. More than 15,000 Jews live in Antwerp.
The party’s leader, Karel Dillen, is a member of the Belgian Senate. It has two deputies in the lower house of Parliament. Although not overtly anti-Semitic, the Flemish Bloc is suspect because of its anti-immigrant campaign, which smacks of racism.
Political observers attribute its electoral success to the growing presence of North African immigrants in Antwerp, one of Europe’s largest seaports. The party also made substantial gains in other large cities in Flanders.
But Karel van Miert, president of the Flemish Socialist Party, says its success is temporary.
He compared the Flemish Bloc with Jean Marie Le Pen’s extremist National Front in France, which has gained political ground on the immigrant issue over the last two years, but suffered serious setbacks in the most recent elections.
Observers here also noted that the success of the Flemish Bloc in Sunday’s elections was confined to the Flemish Bloc in Sunday’s elections was confined to the Flemish part of Belgium.
The only other extreme right-winger, a French speaking candidate, was elected in Brussels, a city with a large immigrant population.
Two Jewish candidates were elected in Antwerp on the Liberal Party list.