Thursday, October 12, 2006

Commenting the election's result ...

Last Sunday we had local elections in Belgium.
I live in Antwerp, a city that used to have a long tradition of a large amount of socialist voters and subsequently, socialist mayors.
Before I go any further here, I'd like to explain the names of the main parties in Belgium into terms so they can be understood in English speaking countries.
In the US, you have the republicans and the democrats. US republicans would be called liberals here in Belgium, where as the democrats would be the socialists.
For the UK, the socialists are Labour, and our liberals would be called conservative. UK liberals however would be considered left wingers.
Why am I writing that Antwerp painted the town red again last Sunday and why am I happy about that?
In the early 80's a party called Vlaams Blok emerged out of the Flemish nationalist's party Volksunie. Now Volksunie has always been a democratic party. Some of the members at that time didn't seem to agree anymore with the concept of a democratic party. Some of those members had a former Nazi or neo-Nazi background and were/are linked with paramilitary organizations ...
I don't know how come, but some people seem to have a very short time memory. Had they forgotten about World War II? I don't know. What I do know is that in the late 70's and early 80's, the amount of hours of history lessons one would have in highschool, were cut ... Coincidence or not? Who will tell?
Antwerp is the 2nd biggest town in Belgium. Since the 60's, there always have been living a lot of foreigners. During my childhood, I felt very happy in this melting pot of Moroccans, Turks, Indians, Pakistani, Chinese and last but not least the large Jewish community we have in our town.
From the beginning it was clear that the party then called Vlaams blok had very strong views on foreigners. If it were possible they'd like to send any foreigner back to the country he or she originally came from, even if their families had been living here for generations ... Needless to say they didn't score many votes the first time they took part in the elections. Of course some foreigners create problems, but so do some native Belgians and where would you send them?
Secondly, the original party had a party program booklet, containing 70 issues that would concern the whole of the population in case the party ever would gain power! Women were encouraged to give birth to as many children as possible. Working women ... well their future would be very insecure. Every woman's place would be behind the furnace! Relationships without being married? Don't even think about it! Are you gay? Tough luck! According to the little book, being gay is a big sin!
Those were the views of the party as they were presented to the public. Many people at that time still agreed that voting for Vlaams Blok would mean voting against yourself.
Over the years, only the view on foreigners remained and were adjusted after the party had been convicted on account of being racist.
Here comes in the short time memory of the public again! In any big city minorities seem to be an issue. Many people, in some districts of Antwerp, over 40%, voted for the party Vlaams Blok which had recently it's name change into Vlaams Belang (also as a result after a trial involving racism).
During the years past, none of the other parties ever wanted to collaborate with the party. So we always had socialist mayors. Some were popular, some were not, some did very good work.
The current mayor, Patrick Janssens, has done a good job and had a very good campaign! Though Vlaams Belang is still big in Antwerp, it seems times are changing!
Last Sunday I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the socialist scores! They're back again to their old scores and suddenly I feel more at home in my city and in Flanders in general!
That's why I also painted the town red a little bit while watching the election results on TV