Defeat of Belgian Rightists Calms Fears of Country’s Jews

Belgian Jews breathed a sigh of relief when Belgian extremists did not succeed in this week’s parliament elections as well as had been predicated.

The center-left government, led by Prime Minister Jean Luc Dehaene, held its majority in the lower house with a 17.1 percent vote nationwide.

“I’m happy to say there has not been a negative vote, but a positive vote,” Dehaene told reporters.

But the extremists still will have a presence in Belgium’s government.

Jewish community leader have been concerned about the increasing popularity of the rightist Flemish Vlaasms Blok — or Flemish Bloc — especially in Antwerp, where some 15,000 Jews live. Communal leaders had called on the community to vote for democratic parties in the election.

The Flemish Bloc, which campaigned on a racist, anti-immigrant platform, remained especially strong in Antwerp, the second largest city in Belgium, where it received 26.7 percent of the vote. Nationally, the bloc gained only 1.2 percent of the vote. Belgium’s mainstream parties have ruled out entering into a coalition with the rightist bloc.

Last year, in European and local elections, the extreme right became a political force in the French-speaking part of Belgium, with the National Front making gains in southern Belgium. Belgium, along with France, Austria and Italy, are the European countries where extremists have made their strongest electoral showings in the last few years.

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