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'Belgian Malcolm X' seeks office

 
 
au1929
 
Reply Fri 16 May, 2003 06:56 pm
[]
World > Europe
from the May 16, 2003 edition

'Belgian Malcolm X' seeks office

Even as Europe's Islamic population rises, many Muslims feel marginalized and uncertain of their place in European society.

By Jennifer Ehrlich and Tom Vandyck | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

ANTWERP, BELGIUM – Editor's Note: First in a two-part series: To Be Muslim in Europe. On Monday, a profile of a more moderate leader. To his supporters, Dyab Abou Jahjah is a hero, a champion of Europe's Muslim immigrant underclass.
But to many Belgians, the young, Lebanese-born activist embodies the Continent's growing fear of extremism within its Muslim population.
Now, the man sometimes called the "Belgian Malcolm X" is trying to make the leap from activism to political office: He is running for a parliamentary seat in a heated election Sunday in which immigration is a pivotal issue.
Mr. Abou Jahjah's confrontational style is forcing Belgians to consider questions echoing elsewhere in Europe: Are immigrants welcome? What does it mean to be a European?
Railing against high minority unemployment and government inertia, Abou Jahjah says he wants to form a Continent-wide political movement to defend Muslim rights.

I wonder how the self righteous Europeans will deal with this dilemma. Affirmative action programs perhaps?


http://csmonitor.com/2003/0516/p06s01-woeu.html
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 May, 2003 06:21 am
Well, au, the democratic Begian parties know about the attacks from the far right, led by the 'Flaamse Block'.

Far right poised for big Belgian poll gains

Right-Wing Belgian Party Could Make Gains

Belgium election to test far-right muscle
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 May, 2003 06:31 am
From 'Anti-Semitism Worldwide' - Tel Aviv University:

Quote:
Political Parties

The current leadership of the extreme right Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc - VB) - which enjoys over 15 percent of popular support throughout the entire Flemish Region, reaching 33 percent in Antwerp (see ASW 1999/2000) - is attempting to present a more respectable image in order to further increase its electoral strength. However, the VB, headed by Philip Dewinter, is aware that it will have to attract new voters and enter into alliances with the conservative wings of democratic parties. Thus, it must moderate its language on certain topics, notably antisemitism. During the October 2000 municipal elections the VB claimed that it wished to do away with all visible references to its antisemitic legacy.

The question remains whether these attempts at reform are sincere or for propaganda purposes only. It should be noted that antisemites who were involved in the establishment of the VB in 1978, as well as young militants from neo-Nazi groups, are still part of its innermost circles.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 May, 2003 05:55 pm
Abou Jahjah has had his Arab-European League set up in Holland as well, instilling a sense of panic among the mainstream parties.

In Belgium (Antwerp, in particular) he's mostly playing the Arab card, focusing on the troubles local Arab immigrants face re: the political power of the Flemish Block and the racist police force of Antwerp. But in Holland the AEL's leader is considered a Muslim fundamentalist, and seen to be more likely to play the religious card. In both countries anti-Israel feelings are important in mobilising support for the AEL too.

One thing one might find interesting is the self-definition in terms of identity here - Euro-Arabs. Not Moroccan or Algerian or Lebanese - not Belgian or Dutch - but Euro-Arabs. It suggests a kind of pan-Arabic agenda but also the 'double' or 'in between' identity of the young second-generation immigrants that make up most of Jahjah's supoorters: too European to simply be Arab, too Arabic to simply be European.

Still, I found the sight of a group of AEL supporters in a demonstration disconcerting. They were shouting "Hamas, Jihad, Hezbollah!".

In Belgium the AEL has decided to join forces for these elections, btw - since it was afraid it wouldnt make it on its own - with the far-left Party of Labour (PvdA). Seems an uneasy combination.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 12:32 pm
Tendences show that the Flemish Bloc doesn't get more than 12% in the Royaume
http://elections2003.saipm.com/canton_dh.php
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 06:26 pm
Walter Hinteler wrote:
Tendences show that the Flemish Bloc doesn't get more than 12% in the Royaume
http://elections2003.saipm.com/canton_dh.php


Cool link, I love political maps.

But the 12% figure is a bit misleading. Because that's 12% in the Belgian totals. But the Belgian party system is split in two: in Flanders they have different parties than in the Walloon provinces. The Flemish Block, too - (obviously) - only took part in the Flemish half of the country, and there it did a lot better than 12%. (In the opinion polls it had been predicted something like 20% there).
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 06:49 pm
The Flemish Block got 18% of the vote in Flanders, almost 3% more than in 1999 - making this its tenth election success in a row. It does remain the fourth party in the province though, behind the liberal VLD (24%), the socialist SP.A (24%), and the Christian Democrat CD&V (21%).

It's a dissapointing result for the opposition CD&V (-1%) and a surprisingly massive gain for the SP.A (+9%). The latter was to the detriment of the Green 'Agalev' (lit: "To start working, living and making love differently"), however, which tumbled from 11% to 4%.

As for the AEL, it didn't do well at all. Its election list 'RESIST' got 0,3% of the vote, that is to say, the very equivalent of the number of votes its hard-left allies of the PvdA, which went from 0,6% to 0,3%, lost. Only in Antwerp did RESIST get 2,5%.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 08:13 pm
The result is a resounding victory for the ruling "purple" government of liberals and socialists, by the way. In 1999, the Christian Democrats were removed from a long-standing hold on power and replaced by a government of liberals (who are considered right-wing here), socialists and greens.

The government attracted an unusual degree of international attention with its sharply worded position against the war in Iraq. It does not appear to have done the parties involved any harm.

Though the Green vote did collapse Belgium-wide, the Socialist and Liberal gains more than made up for it. The (Wallonian liberal) party of foreign minister Louis Michel, for example, gained 4% and as many seats.

Liberals and Socialists now will have a majority in parliament by themselves, and are thus likely to continue the "purple" experiment, sans Greens.

Overall scores (total seats = 150):

Socialists
28%, +8%
; 49 seats (+16)
(Wallonia 36%, +7; Flanders 24%, +9)

Liberals
27%, +2%
; 47 seats (+6)
(Wallonia 28%, +4; Flanders 24%, +2)

Christian Democrats
19%, -1%
; 29 seats (-3)
(Wallonia 15%, -2; Flanders 21%, -1)

Flemish Block & Front National
12%, +2%
; 19 seats (+2)
(Wallonia 6%, +2; Flanders 18%, +3)

Greens
6%, -9%
; 5 seats (-15)
(Wallonia 8%, -11; Flanders 4%, -7)

New Flemish Alliance
3%
, 1 seat (+1)
(Flanders 5%, +5)
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 18 May, 2003 11:37 pm
I know about the Belgium system, nimh - 12% didn't look so terrifying, I thought. :wink:
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blatham
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 May, 2003 07:28 am
nimh and walter

That's a significant downturn for the greens. Are such losses being seen elsewhere in Europe as well?
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 May, 2003 07:48 am
No, not in that number.
(Besides, only in Germany the Greens have such a strong position.)
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 May, 2003 01:50 pm
No, Blatham, it's pretty country-specific. Few things to consider here.

(1) Remember, they were in government, alongside the socialists and liberals (that's right-wing, as in: free-market, here). Greens don't often get into government and one would expect them to get into trouble more quickly than other parties when they do. After all, both politicians and voters of the Greens tend to be of the principled, activist kind, and are more likely to have a hard time coping with the necessary business of compromise in government. The German Greens had also suffered greatly in the polls during Schroeder-I - they just recovered in time. And this was a pretty 'broad' government, that required more compromise than the Red-Green government in Germany or the government of the "gauche plurielle" in France (had) involved.

Apparently (we don't really follow Belgian news here outside election times) there were indeed a few 'loud' episodes in the government. Consequently, in the campaign the other parties made much about the resulting image of the Greens as unrealistic 'troublemakers'.

(2) And they were right, to a degree, of course. Because the Walloon Greens had made the government fall after all - just weeks before the elections. Over an issue (night flights over Brussels), moreover, that was largely seen as the Walloon Green leader scoring opportunistic points for her election district. And "who breaks, pays", as we say here.

(3) It has hurt them greatly among the mainstream voters they had attracted last time. Because 1999 was a special case. The elections took place amidst the scandal over the 'dioxin-chickens'. People only really get worked up over environment issues when they start affecting their food. The Greens got an absolute record score. So there was all the more to lose this time.

Still, in Flanders for example, just a week or two before the elections Agalev was still hoping for a limited loss, for something like 8-9%. They got 4%. That's pretty drastic, especially considering they stayed in government when their Walloon counterparts broke away, and otherwise too had followed a distinctly less volatile course than their Walloon colleagues. Were such subtleties lost on the electorate? Or was it the one remaining element in the equation:

(4) Steve Stevaert. The Socialist leader turned out to be hugely popular, and personally contributed much to the success of the new combination of SP.A and Spirit, one of the lists that came from the former Flemish Popular Union.

In Holland, Labour party leader Wouter Bos effected as huge a jump in popularity for his party, without it hurting the Greens as much. But a combination of the above four factors will have done it.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 19 May, 2003 01:57 pm
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 20 May, 2003 02:16 am
Walter Hinteler wrote:
(Besides, only in Germany the Greens have such a strong position.)

Thought I'd make a kinda complete list ... These are the Green parties that got more than 3% at the last elections, in Europe, skipping the very smallest countries:

In Austria, the Greens last November gained 1,9% to get 9,5%.
In Germany, the Greens last year gained 1,9% to get 8,6%.
In Finland, the Greens this year gained 0,5% to get 8,0%.
In Belgium, the Greens now thus lost a whopping 8,8%, to get 5,6%.
In the Netherlands last January, the Greens lost 1,9%, getting 5,1%.
In Sweden, the Greens last year remained at 4,5%.
In France, last year the Greens lost 2,4%, getting 4,4%.
In Ireland, the Greens last year gained 1,2% to get 3,8%.

See http://www.parties-and-elections.de/indexe.html

Hors concours, in Latvia, the Green Party joined up with the Farmers' Union, and this combination last year got 9,4% of the vote. (In Estonia and Latvia the Green parties are associated with the traditionalist, patriotic loyalty that was invested for so long in the countryside and nature while the Soviets imposed industrialisation and Russification on the cities.)
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WaCo
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2004 03:52 am
Hi everybody,

I'm new on this forum. I'm from Belgium so I think I can clear some things for you if you want...

First, about the topic of this discussion, Mr. Jahjah (or mr Gaga as we like to call him) is nothing but an agitator looking to create an uprising within the arab community living in Belgium. Therefore it seems totally wrong to me that you would compare him to somebody like Malcolm X.

Second, Vlaams Blok is now, according to the latest polls, the third Flemish party of the country. They get some 20% of the flemish speeking voters. Personally I don't like them. (more of a liberal myself)

And last but not least : yep, the greenies got a serious bashing with the last elections, but they have only themselves to thank for it. (don't like them either).

To me, both parties are necessary but only as opposition parties representing a small % of the voters. The fact that they get more votes than that clearly shows something going wrong (and this is not only in Belgium) with the current political situation here in Europe.
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Rick d Israeli
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2004 01:13 pm
Talking about the Vlaams Blok: not so long ago I read an article in Vrij Nederland - one of my favorite magazines, a nice leftish magazine :wink: - about the Vlaams Blok and Filip Dewinter. "Funny" was that especially in Antwerp, the Vlaams Blok has a great popularity among the 20,000 people strong Jewish community, because the Jewish community feels threatened by the (also) large Arab population in Antwerp, and the VB says it will do something about it. In this context it's surprising to read how some of the hardcore VB-members are considered to be neo-Nazi's (according to the quote Walter Hinteler used May 17th 2003 from the Tel Aviv University). Am I the only one who (still) finds this surprising?
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2004 01:18 pm
No, although I watch two reports about it on tv where they tried to explain that (one on German, the other -originally Belgian, on TV5) :wink:
0 Replies
 
blatham
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2004 09:21 pm
Welcome, WaCo. I'm very pleased to see another European join in here.
0 Replies
 
WaCo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Apr, 2004 02:01 am
Rick d'Israeli wrote:
Talking about the Vlaams Blok: not so long ago I read an article in Vrij Nederland - one of my favorite magazines, a nice leftish magazine :wink: - about the Vlaams Blok and Filip Dewinter. "Funny" was that especially in Antwerp, the Vlaams Blok has a great popularity among the 20,000 people strong Jewish community, because the Jewish community feels threatened by the (also) large Arab population in Antwerp, and the VB says it will do something about it. In this context it's surprising to read how some of the hardcore VB-members are considered to be neo-Nazi's (according to the quote Walter Hinteler used May 17th 2003 from the Tel Aviv University). Am I the only one who (still) finds this surprising?


Perhaps they would change their mind if they knew that the founder of the Vlaams Blok is a known collaborator in WWII?
0 Replies
 
WaCo
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Apr, 2004 02:03 am
blatham wrote:
Welcome, WaCo. I'm very pleased to see another European join in here.


Glad to be here and looking forward to some interesting discussions...
0 Replies
 
 

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