Last modified on 15 June 2014, at 07:35

Vlaams Belang

Flemish Interest
Vlaams Belang
Leader Gerolf Annemans
Founded 14 November 2004
Preceded by Vlaams Blok
Headquarters Madouplein 8 bus 9
1210 Brussels
Youth wing Vlaams Belang Jongeren
Ideology Flemish nationalism[1]
Euroscepticism
Separatism[1]
Conservatism[2]
Political position Right-wing[3][4] to Far-right
European affiliation European Alliance for Freedom
European Parliament group Non-Inscrits
Colours Yellow, Black
Chamber of Representatives
3 / 150
Senate
2 / 60
Flemish Parliament
6 / 124
Brussels Parliament
1 / 89
European Parliament
1 / 21
Flemish Provincial Councils
29 / 351
Website
www.vlaamsbelang.org
Politics of Belgium
Political parties
Elections

Vlaams Belang (English: Flemish Interest, or VB) is a Flemish nationalist political party in the Flemish Region and Brussels that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration, whereby immigrants would be obliged to adopt Flemish culture[5] and language. The party rejects multiculturalism, but accepts a multiethnic society as long as people of non-Flemish backgrounds assimilate into Flemish culture. The party is also heavily eurosceptic. Vlaams Belang originated from Vlaams Blok, which adopted its new name and changed some controversial parts of its statute after a trial in 2004 condemned the party for racism.[6] It has since sought to change its image from a radical to a more conservative party, and has distanced itself from some of its former programs.[2] Most other parties have continued the cordon sanitaire which was originally agreed on against the former party, effectively blocking the Vlaams Belang from any executive power, and attempts on cutting public subsidies specifically for the party were made through the Belgian draining law. The party has been described as far-right.[6]

HistoryEdit

Background, Vlaams BlokEdit

Main article: Vlaams Blok

The direct predecessor of the Vlaams Belang was the Vlaams Blok, which was formed by the nationalist right-wing of the People's Union which had broken out in the late 1970s. The ideology of the Vlaams Blok started out with its radical nationalist rejection of the People's Union compromise on the Flemish autonomy issue, and later increasingly focused on immigration and security, exploitation of political scandals, and defense of traditional values.[7] The immigration positions of the Vlaams Blok was subject to much controversy, and the party was forced to disband in 2004 after a political trial ruled that it sanctioned discrimination.[8] By then, the party was the most popular Flemish party, supported by about one in four of the Flemish electorate,[9] and was one of the most successful parties considered to be right-wing populist in Europe as a whole.[10]

In Belgium in 2001, Roeland Raes, the ideologue and vice-president of Vlaams Blok, gave an interview on Dutch TV where he cast doubt over the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. In the same interview he questioned the scale of the Nazis' use of gas chambers and the authenticity of Anne Frank's diary. In response to the media assault following the interview, Raes was forced to resign his position but vowed to remain active within the party.[11]

Upon complaints filed by the governmental Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism and the Dutch-speaking Human Rights League in Belgium, in 2001 three non-profit organisations that in effect constituted the core of the Vlaams Blok party were charged with violation of the Law on Racism and Xenophobia by assisting "a group or organisation that clearly and repeatedly commits discrimitation or segregation," here the political party. By April 2004, the Appellate Court of Ghent came to a final verdict, forbidding their and the party's continued existence for its "repeated incitement to discrimination." In November that year, the Court of Cassation rejected their last appeal to annul the verdict; the delay had allowed using the name Vlaams Blok for election candidacy.[12][13]

Vlaams Belang (2004–present)Edit

After the Supreme Court ruling, the leadership of the VB seized the occasion to dissolve itself, and start afresh under a new name.[14] On 14 November, the Vlaams Blok thus disbanded itself, and the Vlaams Belang was established. The Vlaams Belang instituted a number of changes in its political program, carefully moderating some of the more radical positions of the former Vlaams Blok.[15] Nevertheless, the party leader Frank Vanhecke made it clear that the party would fundamentally remain the same; "We change our name, but not our tricks. We change our name, but not our programme."[8]

Former Vlaams Blok chairman Frank Vanhecke was chosen as chairman of the Vlaams Belang on 12 December 2004.[16] Like its predecessor, the Vlaams Belang has continued to be subjected to the cordon sanitaire, wherein all the traditional Flemish parties has agreed to systematically exclude the party, and never form a coalition with it. This situation was however altered slightly with the emergence of the smaller right-wing party List Dedecker (founded in 2007), which has not joined in on the agreement.[17] In an interview with the popular weekly Humo, Flemish Prime Minister Yves Leterme for instance declared that a local chapter of his Christian Democratic and Flemish party (CD&V) that would form a coalition or close agreements with the Vlaams Belang, wouldn't be considered a part of the CD&V anymore.[18]

The VB contested the 2006 municipal elections on the theme of "Secure, Flemish, Liveable". The VB enjoyed a massive increase of votes, and its council members almost doubled, from 439 to about 800. The election result was described by the party as a "landslide victory."[19] In Antwerp, the VB's vote count ran behind that of the Socialist Party, which increased their share of the vote dramatically.[19] Nevertheless, the VB, which was in a coalition with the minor VLOTT party, slightly increased their vote in the city to 33.5%.[19] In the 2007 general election, the party won 17 seats in the Chamber of Representatives and five seats in the Senate, remaining more or less at status quo. Earlier the same year, the party joined the short-lived European Parliament group Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty alongside parties such as the French National Front.[20]

In 2008, Bruno Valkeniers was chosen as new party chairman for the VB, having contested the position unopposed.[21] In 2009, the party contested elections for the Flemish Parliament and the European Parliament. The party was reduced from 32 to 21 seats (from the Vlaams Blok's record 24%, to 15%) in the Flemish parliament, and from three to two seats in the European parliament. In the 2010 general election, the party was again reduced, to 12 seats in the Chamber, and three in the Senate. This was largely due to the great success of the more moderate new party New Flemish Alliance, which also campaigned on Flemish independence.[22]

IdeologyEdit

The policies of the Vlaams Belang focus mainly on the issues of Flemish independence, opposition to multiculturalism, and defence of traditional Western values.

Flemish nationalismEdit

The VB's main goal is to establish an independent Flemish republic. The party seeks a peaceful secession of Flanders from Belgium, citing in its program the dissolution of the Union between Sweden and Norway (1905), Czechoslovakia (1992), and the independence of Montenegro (2006) as examples that such would be possible. The reason to seek independence is given as the "enormous cultural and political differences between Flemings and Walloons," and according to the party, Belgian governments are also "paralyzed by ongoing disputes between Flemish and Walloon politicians."[23] Other stated reasons for this are the financial transfers from Flanders to the capital of Brussels and to Wallonia (Belgium's other half), which Vlaams Belang considers to be unjustified.

Immigration and minoritiesEdit

The Vlaams Belang official immigration policy has been slightly moderated from that of the former Vlaams Blok. In its new program, the party simply call for the repatriation of those immigrants who "reject, deny or combat" Flemish culture as well as certain European values, including freedom of expression and equality between men and women. Filip Dewinter has stated that women wearing the hijab have "effectively signed their contract for deportation."[24]

The former Vlaams Blok was according to political scientist Cas Mudde only very rarely accused of anti-Semitism – and even then, it was strongly condemned by the party leadership.[25] The party is anti-Muslim,[26][27] and currently sees itself as strongly pro-Jewish, regarding Jews and Israelis as allies against radical Islam.[28] In Antwerp, sections of the city's large Jewish community actively support the party, as they feel threatened by the new wave of anti-Semitism from the growing Muslim population.[29] In 2010, the party was part of a delegation to Israel (along with some other rightist parties), where they issued the "Jerusalem Declaration," which defended the right of Israel to exist and defend itself against terrorism.[30] Israeli Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara in turn visited the party in Antwerp in 2011.[31] In March 2014, a party mission to the West Bank headed by Dewinter met with Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Ofir Akunis.[32]

Law and orderEdit

In order to secure Flemish cities, the party wants to implement a policy of zero tolerance. It supports the abolition of the Belgian parole law, which allows convicts to be released after only one third of their prison sentence has been served. The party also oppose drug liberalization. Citing "a massive overrepresentation of immigrants in crime statistics," the party also wants to deport criminal and illegal foreigners, as well as seeking to "combat Islamic terror threat."[33]

EconomyEdit

The party's economic policy has been changed significantly from the Vlaams Blok. While the Vlaams Blok called for a rather mixed economy, the Vlaams Belang has moved towards a more neoliberal economic model.[24]

External viewsEdit

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."[34][35]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a prominent 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."[36] According to Vlaams Belang, Ali had been misinformed. The party considered this to be part of a smear campaign. Vlaams Belang underlined that 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.[37] Vlaams Belang also wrote an open letter to Ali.[38]

International relationsEdit

In the European Parliament, the party has generally been part of the Non-Inscrits. In 2007, the party was however part of the short-lived European Parliament group Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty alongside parties such as the French National Front.[20] The party has also had some contacts with the Freedom Party of Austria, the Italian Lega Nord, the Danish People's Party, the Slovak National Party and the Sweden Democrats.[30][39]

Party chairmenEdit

Electoral resultsEdit

Note that the results also include those of the former Vlaams Blok.

Federal ParliamentEdit

Chamber of Representatives

The main six Flemish political parties and their results for the Chamber of Representatives. From 1978 to 2014, in percentages for the complete 'Kingdom'.
Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote  % of language
group vote
# of overall seats won # of language
group seats won
+/- Notes
1981 66,422 1.1
1 / 212
1985 85,391 1.4
1 / 212
Steady 0
1987 116,534 1.9
2 / 212
Increase 1
1991 405,247 6.6
12 / 212
Increase 10
1995 475,677 7.8
11 / 150
Decrease 1
1999 613,399 9.9
15 / 150
Increase 4
2003 767,605 11.6
18 / 150
18 / 88
Increase 3
2007 799,844 12.0
17 / 150
17 / 88
Decrease 1
2010 506,697 7.8
12 / 150
12 / 88
Decrease 5
2014
3 / 150
3 / 88
Decrease 9

Senate

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote  % of language
group vote
# of overall seats won # of language
group seats won
+/- Notes
1985 90,120 1.5
0 / 70
1987 122,953 2.0
1 / 70
Increase 1
1991 414,481 6.8
5 / 70
Increase 4
1995 463,896 7.7
3 / 40
3 / 25
Decrease 2
1999 583,208 9.4
4 / 40
4 / 25
Increase 1
2003 741,940 11.3
5 / 40
5 / 25
Increase 1
2007 787,782 11.9
5 / 40
5 / 25
Steady 0
2010 491,519 7.6
3 / 40
3 / 25
Decrease 2

Regional parliamentsEdit

Brussels ParliamentEdit

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote  % of language
group vote
# of overall seats won # of language group
seats won
+/- Notes
1989 9,006 2.1 (#11)
1 / 75
1995 12,507 3.0
2 / 75
Increase 1
1999 19,310 4.5 31.9 (#1)
4 / 75
Increase 2
2004 21,297 34.1 (#1)
6 / 89
6 / 17
Increase 2
2009 9,072 17.5 (#3)
3 / 89
3 / 17
Decrease 3

Flemish ParliamentEdit

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote  % of language
group vote
# of overall seats won # of language group
seats won
+/-
1995 465,239 12.3 (#4)
15 / 124
1999 603,345 15.5 (#3)
20 / 124
Increase 5
2004 981,587 24.2 (#1)
32 / 124
Increase 12
2009 628,564 15.28 (#2)
21 / 124
Decrease 11
2014 232,813 5.98
6 / 124
Decrease 15

European ParliamentEdit

Election year # of overall votes  % of overall vote  % of electoral
college vote
# of overall seats won # of electoral
college seats won
+/- Notes
1984 73,174 1.3 2.1 (#6)
0 / 24
0 / 13
1989 241,117 4.1 6.6 (#6)
1 / 24
1 / 13
Increase 1
1994 463,919 7.8 12.6 (#4)
2 / 25
2 / 14
Increase 1
1999 584,392 9.4 15.1 (#3)
2 / 25
2 / 14
Steady 0
2004 930,731 14.3 23.2 (#2)
3 / 24
3 / 14
Increase 1
2009 647,170 9.9 15.9 (#3)
2 / 22
2 / 13
Decrease 1

† First European election as Vlaams Belang

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Wingfield, George (2008). Belgium. Infobase Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-7910-9670-3. 
  2. ^ a b Thompson, Wayne C. (2008). Western Europe 2008. Stryker Post Pubns. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-887985-98-7. 
  3. ^ http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/european-far-right-developing-closer-ties-with-moscow-a-963878.html
  4. ^ http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/pat-buchanan-touts-timeout-all-immigration-lauds-european-far-right-model-us
  5. ^ "Vlaams Belang: Programmaboek 2004" (PDF) (in Dutch). Vlaams Belang. 2004. p. 22. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b [1]
  7. ^ De Winter, 2004, p. 2.
  8. ^ a b Liang, 2007, p. 98.
  9. ^ De Winter, 2004, p. 6.
  10. ^ Coffé, 2005, p. 205.
  11. ^ Belgium's far right party in Holocaust controversy, The Guardian, Friday, March 9, 2001.
  12. ^ "Blok versus Liga: geen proces over bevoegdheid beroepshof". Het Belang van Limburg (in Dutch). 6 September 2002. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  13. ^ Van den Wyngaert, C. (2006). "Strafrecht, strafprocesrecht en internationaal strafrecht". Maklu. pp. 161–162. ISBN 978-90-466-0065-8. 
  14. ^ Coffé, 2005, p. 216.
  15. ^ Erik, 2005, p. 493.
  16. ^ Erik, 2005, p. 498.
  17. ^ Raymaekers, Bart (2008). Lectures for the 21st century. Leuven University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-90-5867-648-1. 
  18. ^ "Leterme geeft voorakkoorden toe". De Standaard (in Dutch). 28 August 2006. 
  19. ^ a b c "Poll gain for Belgium's far right". BBC News. 9 October 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  20. ^ a b Mahony, Honor (9 January 2007). "Far-right group formed in European Parliament". EUobserver (Brussels). Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  21. ^ "New party chair for Vlaams Belang". flandersnews.be. 4 March 2008. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  22. ^ Beesley, Arthur (22 June 2010). "Debt and far-right populism could be a dangerous cocktail". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  23. ^ "2. The Program: 2.1 Flemish independence". Vlaams Belang. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  24. ^ a b Erik, 2005, p. 495.
  25. ^ Mudde, Cas (2003). The ideology of the extreme right. Manchester University Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7190-6446-3. 
  26. ^ Taylor, Matthew (July 26, 2011). "Breivik sent 'manifesto' to 250 UK contacts hours before Norway killings". The Guardian. 
  27. ^ Bilefsky, Dan; Fisher, Ian (October 11, 2006). "Across Europe, Worries on Islam Spread to Center". New York Times. 
  28. ^ Liphshiz, Cnaan (12 December 2008). "Far-right Belgian party Vlaams Belang says invited to Jerusalem meet". Haaretz. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  29. ^ Smith, Craig S. (12 February 2005). "Fear of Islamists Drives Growth of Far Right in Belgium". The New York Times (Antwerp). Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  30. ^ a b Gutsch, Jochen-Martin (6 January 2011). "Riding the Wave of Islamophobia: The German Geert Wilders". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  31. ^ "Dewinter ontvangt Israëlische minister Ayoob Kara". De Morgen (in Dutch). 1 June 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  32. ^ "Netanyahu associate meets with far-right Belgian group". i24news.tv. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  33. ^ "2. The Program: 2.3 Crime: a strong approach". Vlaams Belang. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  34. ^ "Zeg niet zomaar "fascist" tegen Dewinter". De Standaard (in Dutch). 23 December 2004. 
  35. ^ "De waarheid kwetst". De Standaard (in Dutch). 17 December 2004. 
  36. ^ "Hirsi Ali wil Vlaams Belang verbieden". De Standaard (in Dutch) (Antwerp). 31 January 2006. 
  37. ^ "Beledigen is een recht". Vlaams Belang (in Dutch). 10 February 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  38. ^ Vanhecke, Frank (31 January 2006). "Open brief aan Ayaan Hirsi Ali". Vlaams Belang (in Dutch). 
  39. ^ Phillips, Leigh (25 October 2010). "Far-right 'lite' to push for EU referendum on Turkish accession". EUobserver (Brussels). Retrieved 11 January 2011. 

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit

News articlesEdit