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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Belgium's far right
Vlaams Blok leader Filip Dewinter
Party leader Filip Dewinter is confident of more success
By BBC News Online's Kate Milner

Vlaams Blok, founded in 1977, is the only far-right party to have made any impact on Belgian politics.

The party is anti-immigrant and anti-francophone, playing on the cultural and language divisions between Belgium's Flemish-speaking north and French-speaking south.

In the June 1999 general election it became the third largest political party in the economically-powerful region of Flanders, which it argues should become a separate Flemish state.

In the 2003 general election, the party made further gains, taking its number of seats from 15 to 18, with a share of the vote approaching 20%.

It rallies to the slogans "Down with Belgium" and "In Charge of Our Own Country".

The party's stronghold has always been Antwerp, Belgium's second city of 460,000 residents. The high unemployment rate and large immigrant population - mostly from North Africa and Turkey - have provided the party with fertile ground.

Steady rise

Vlaams Blok, or Flemish Bloc, first won seats on the city council in 1981 and in 1994 became the biggest political group with 18 of the city's council's 55 seats and 28.8% of the votes.

That support was boosted in local elections in October 2000 when the party gained two more seats and 33% of the vote. This was despite a five-party "buffer" coalition designed to prevent Vlaams Blok controlling the council.

Vlaams Blok also became the top party in the northern cities of Mechelen, with 25.6% of the vote, and Ghent, with 20.2%.

Nationally, the party is much weaker, though it does not campaign in the French-speaking south. It has had to campaign in the French language in Brussels though, where support is marginal. Even though the capital is within Flanders, it is 85% francophone.

Party leader Filip Dewinter demands an immediate halt to immigration but proposes allowing foreigners who adopt the nationality of his hoped-for Flemish state to stay.

"As for the rest," he says, "those who are unemployed, who are here illegally, who committed criminal acts, they have to go back to their own country."

The party has active backing from France's far-right National Front.



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31 Aug 00 | Europe
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