(JTA) — Belgium’s far-right Flemish Interest party has more than tripled its electorate, emerging as the country’s second largest in Sunday’s federal elections.
The party, whose founders included collaborators with Nazi Germany and whose lawmakers have a rich history of anti-Semitism, won about 15 percent of the national vote – its best result ever. It had fewer than four percent in the 2014 elections.
Separately, in neighboring France the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, National Rally, has retained its position as the largest French party in the European Parliament after winning 23.2 percent of the vote in those elections, which also took place on Sunday.
The Flemish Interest party in 2014 declared its support for a ban on slaughter of animals without stunning, which means a de facto ban on the production of halal meat for Muslims and kosher meat for Jews. This year, two of Belgium’s three states banned slaughter without stunning.
The Flemish Interest party, and its predecessor, the Flemish Bloc, have been kept out of power-sharing coalitions by other parties in reaction to the party’s history with racism.
But Bart de Wever, the leader of the New Flemish Alliance, Belgium’s largest party, hinted that this could change following Sunday’s election.
“Flemish Interest is now the second-largest party. It’s not something you can dismiss,” he told reporters who asked whether his party will adhere to the exclusion policy against Flemish Interest.
Roeland Raes, a former vice-chairman of Flemish Bloc, was convicted of Holocaust denial in 2001. Frank Vanhecke, a former party under secretary, defended Raes’ “right to free speech.”