In the 308 communes of Flanders, the northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, 4,648,649 people will head to the ballot box. Together, they will elect 7,350 town council members as well as 411 provincial council members, out of 31,906 candidates. For those of you who are interested in such matters, if you follow this link you are offered a map of Flanders with the contours of all communes and provinces, and if you click on a commune you get the results of the 2000 elections. Clicking on "Wetteren" e.g. learns us that back then the Liberals (the VLD, who are over here considered "centre right" but who are effectively a lot like the US's Democrats) got 40.1% of the vote, the Christian Democrats (CD&V) 31% and the Vlaams Blok, as the Vlaams Belang was named before it was outlawed in 2004, 8.6%. Notice, as you wander through Flanders electoral landscape, the multitude of parties as compared to the US's virtual bipolar political constellation. There's liberals, socialists, christian democrats, greens and several brands of nationalists, and while there's a 5% treshold for federal elections, for municipal elections a dog with a hat on can come up with a party, if he can fill a minimal list.
The situation in Wallonia, Belgiums French-speaking south with 262 communes, is different to the extent that while in Flanders the five main parties are by and large in the same category, in the south one party is truly incontournable, even after a gazillion of scandals - the Parti Socialiste. In no less than 70% of Wallonian communes the PS is wielding power, either alone or in a coalition, and in 40% of them it provides the mayor. The left's hold on power is the main reason why Wallonia is in such a terrible mess. More electoral info here. Watch out. La langue de Molière spoken.
Whatever which way you look at it, the municipal elections are a test for the real thing - the parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2007. Tomorrow, people will not only judge their mayors and town selectmen, but the PM and the government too. And it don't look too well for them. For one thing, all eyes are on the Vlaams Belang, Flanders' secessionist party, which is labeled as extreme right and virulently attacked day and night not only by the so-called "democratic" parties but by the media, university profs, artists, writers, filmstars, you name it, for being "racist" and "xenophobic". I've been living in Belgium for 41 years now and became interested in politics at age 18, but I can assure you that I never witnessed a smear campaign like the one waged against the VB since at least six months. Someone not familiar with the political situation in Belgium might get the impression, from reading our newspapers, that the typical VB voter is a chap like the one pictured to the right (actually, he looks a bit like me, only I'm fatter. Bastards did a Katie Couric on me).
One week ago, in an effort reminiscent of the 2003 Rock The Vote Tour performed by a Moooooooooooo-ron in the U.S.AAAAAA---, Tom Barman, a Flemish "rocker" as red as Che Guevara is dead, orchestrated the so-called 0110-concerts, free performances by the fine fleur of the Belgian music scene intended to point out to the general public - which is considered too stupid to reach any conclusion by themselves - just how wrong a vote for the Vlaams Belang is and how limitless tolerance towards people of other faiths and cultures is of such paramount importance. Even as gangs of Moroccan youths had rioted like animals in a Brussels quarter not one week earlier. Mr. Barmans concerts were not the culmination of the hatefest yet, however. That was left for Luc Tuymans, a Belgian artist who, truth to tell, is labeled by Tate Modern as "one of the most significant and influential contemporary painters working today". Personally I think, although I recognize his work has a certain technical quality as well as the ability to leave a lasting ephemereal impression - for me anyway - that the man proper is as mad as a hatter and like all ardent leftoids dangerously inclined to endorse the silencing of dissenters. It's even worse: in the face of muslim extremism, he even advocates self-silencing. Over at The Brussels Journal Paul Beliën reports:
Meanwhile, Belgian artists warn that a victory of the “islamophobic” Vlaams Belang [Flemish Interest] party in the local elections on October 8th may lead to violence. In an interview in the Dutch-language weekly Knack Magazine this week painter Luc Tuymans says: “In the worst case you will get organised resistance [by Moroccan youths], perhaps even rather violent reactions. I suspect many shop keepers will have their windows smashed. People do not seem to be aware, but a vote for the Vlaams Belang may have serious consequences. They should realize this before they take a final decision in the voting booth.”
In other words, do not offend your muslim brethren by voting for a party they don't like since you can get your windows smashed. Keep in mind that it's people like Tuymans who always say that it's the VB which creates a climate of fear. On last note on the good painter. Here is how this morally superior being, who despises the racist VB thugs, depicts the US's Foreign Secretary Condoleezza Rice:
Dixit Tuymans: "Condoleezza Rice was encouraged since childhood to accept the racism in the American society and to go far in life. Today she is one of the mightiest women in the world". Interpret as "...But...but how CAN a BLACK woman be a RIGHTWINGER???? a BLACK WOMAN?????". Hence, out of frustration, the grossly exaggerated, caricaturally enhanced negroïd racial characteristics. Artnet may blather about "...Rice's head is massive within it. She looks simultaneously imposing, pinched, irritated and isolated." I am telling you Mr. Tuymans has revealed us his own racist inner self.
To cut a long story short, for the past six months just about everybody has told the Flemings why they should not vote VB tomorrow. And, for that matter, why Walloons should not vote for the Front National. Because they are racist, xenophobic, hateful and what not, things anathema in our wonderful multicultural society. If there are frictions, it's because of the locals. Because we don't reach out to "them", even as a child can see that whole immigrant communities are deliberately folding back on themselves. Even as a neutral observer cannot but conclude that while "we" have given miles, "they" have yet to give an inch. There's an intifada going on right now in France, there's riots in Windsor, UK. There's a civil war in the making in Europe, and sadly enough I'm not kidding. Arms are being stacked and it's not by your local Vlaams Belang chapter. I may not like certain aspects of the VB's economic agenda, or rather I would like them to emphasize certain aspects more - truly free markets, hayekian approach rather than keynesian - but none of that really matters now. At stake is our very civilization. If you think I'm exaggerating, come to France, where police unions are requesting armored cars to venture out in neighborhoods "held" by muslim immigrants. Today's latest No Pasaran's entry was:
A bomb went off in front of the meeting hall where French Presidential candidate Philippe de Villiers was presiding over a campaign event. Just after speaking on the case of Robert Redeker, de Villiers stated, "I do not fear the Islamists". At that moment, a loud explosion took place at the entry of the meeting hall. The meeting hall was not evacuated and local authorities are investigating.
I know what party is the best guarantee for my daughter not wearing a hijab in twenty years. And I strongly suspect many Flemings do. We will vote for who we want.
No matter what Luc Tuymans says.