Belgian Leader Stirs Up Storm by Giving a Nod to Racist Party

The Belgian defense minister has caused a political storm here by stating he would not rule out a government coalition with the far-right Vlaams Blok, or Flemish Nationalist Party.

Leo Delcroix, a Flemish Christian Democrat, said in an interview with the Belgian daily Le Soir that the party, seen as racist and anti-immigrant, is a “party like the others.”

“I am not among those who think that the Vlaams Blok must be avoided at any price,” he said.

These statements by a member of the Cabinet and an important figure of the Flemish Christian Democratic party of Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene led to reactions of indignation and furor within the coalition government.

“This is contrary to the party’s official position, set recently during a congress, that the Flemish Christian Democrats would not conclude any accord with parties whose ideas and program are opposed to human rights and fundamental liberties,” said Johan van Hecke, leader of the Christian Democratic parliamentary group.

The French-speaking Socialist Party. a member of the coalition government, firmly condemned Delcroix’s declarations.

Some Socialist representatives expressed their concern about the statements of a Cabinet minister “who envisions without any emotion political alliances with the fascist extreme right.”

Delcroix himself tried to calm the stir he caused by declaring: “I would not consider any coalition with the Vlaams Blok as long as this party will not fundamentally change its program and particularly its points concerning immigration.

“It’s not possible to form a coalition with a party that violates human rights,” he said.

Some political commentators explained Delcroix’s statements as an attempt to shore up support for the Flemish Christian Democratic party, which has ruled the country in coalition governments since the end of World War II.

The current coalition federal government in Belgium is made up of Christian Democrats and Socialists from both the Flemish and the French-language part of the country.

According to recent opinion polls, the Flemish Christian Democratic party is loosing ground to the new Flemish Liberal party led by Guy Verhofstadt, already seen as a future prime minister.

Meanwhile, the extremist anti-immigrant Vlaams Blok won about 7 percent of the votes during the parliamentary elections in November 1991 and has four members in Parliament.

A recent opinion poll gave the Vlaams Blok 13 percent of the votes in Flanders, against 27.2 percent for the Liberals and 21.7 for the Christian Democrats.

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