The New Flemish Alliance, a centre-right secessionist party in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, has defeated the long-ruling socialists in the mayoral election in the port city of Antwerp. France24.com reports:
Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever hailed a “historic” victory in Antwerp’s mayoral vote on Sunday after he and his New Flemish Alliance brought an end to 90 years of Socialist dominance in the northern port city.
The leader of a separatist party won the race to become mayor of Antwerp, Europe’s second biggest port city, and vowed Sunday to use the power base to seek wider autonomy for Belgium’s wealthy Dutch-speaking region of Flanders.
Bart De Wever’s NV-A party made sweeping gains throughout Flanders and immediately called on French-speaking Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to give more rights of self-rule to Flanders.
De Wever says ‘’we want to give Flemings the government they want at all levels. That is why I call on Elio Di Rupo and the Francophone politicians. Take up your responsibility.”
He says he will work for even bigger gains for separatists at the 2014 national elections.
De Wever has been at odds with Belgium’s economically ailing French-speaking Wallonia for years, saying he is fighting over the fate of the 6 million Flemings in the kingdom of 11 million.
With 80 percent of the votes counted, De Wever was leading Antwerp’s incumbent Socialist mayor Patrick Janssens 36.4 percent to 29.5 percent.
De Wever’s party is a moderate, civic-nationalist party. It incorporates ideas such as environmentalism, conservatism and Flemish separatism. In the 2009 regional elections the New Flemish Alliance won 13% of the vote. It seeks to require immigrants to adopt Flemish culture. The Vlaams Belang is a more ethnic-nationalist Flemish secessionist party. In the 2009 regional elections it won over 15% of the vote.
UPDATE: Indications are that the New Flemish Alliance won a substantial portion of Vlaam Belang’s supporters, propelling it to victory. Raf Casert writes for the Associated Press (in an openly biased article):
While De Wever’s NV-A surged on Sunday, the extremist anti-foreigner Flemish Interest party crashed. “We saw our voters flee to the NV-A,” Flemish Interest [Vlaams Belang] lawmaker Gerolf Annemans said.
“Our city was the European base of the radical right wing for two decades. This era ends today,” a triumphant De Wever said.
Thanks to Ethan for the link!