Belgium introduced voting rights for non-Belgian residents in order to counter the “islamophobic” and Flemish secessionist Vlaams Belang (VB). As a result multitudes of Muslim candidates were elected in major cities in last Sunday’s local elections. In Antwerp the immigrants are now demanding an alderman’s post in the city government, which consists of the mayor and ten aldermen. In Brussels the Parti Socialiste (PS) is embarrassed at the election of Murat Denizli as a Socialist councilor. Denizli is a hardright Turkish extremist belonging to the Grey Wolves. In the Netherlands political parties are facing serious problems with Turkish candidates who refuse to acknowledge the 1915 Armenian genocide.
In Antwerp all the mainstream parties have (again) teamed up in a coalition in order to keep the VB out of local government. In 1989 the Belgian parties signed an agreement – the so-called “cordon sanitaire” – that, no matter what the outcome of the elections may be, they will never enter into a coalition with the VB. The VB has 20 of the 55 seats in the new Antwerp city council. The new governing coalition of Socialists, Christian-Democrats and Liberals holds 33 seats. Of the latter 9 seats are held by Muslims (7 Socialists and 2 Christian-Dems), which gives them real vetoing power within the new coalition. The most popular candidate on the Socialist list of mayor Patrick Janssens is Fauzaya Talhaoui. She got more votes than any other candidate apart from Janssens himself. Talhaoui wants to become a city alderman, but her demand is posing problems for the mayor, who had already promised the position of alderman to other politicians before the elections.
Yesterday the Brussels newspaper Le Soir ran a front page article about the problems in the important Brussels borough of Schaarbeek. The paper says it had been widely known for three months that a member of the Turkish Grey Wolves was a Socialist candidate there. (It should be noted, however, that Le Soir, the largest paper in Brussels, failed to disclose this to its readers until yesterday, well after the elections.) The election of Murat Denizli, Le Soir says, has led to “open warfare and an identity crisis” within the PS because the Grey Wolves are know to be “ultra-nationalist, racist, anti-European.”
Denizli was introduced on the PS list by the Schaarbeek PS leader Laurette Onkelinx, who is also the Belgian vice prime minister and minister of Justice. Schaarbeek PS members told Le Soir that last April the local section of the PS had rejected the list of candidates which included Denizli and “other immigrants adhering to rather religious and conservative Muslim values.” Onkelinx, however, demanded that the candidates be accepted because “they are popular and the party had to win the elections at any price.” Today it bothers many traditional indigenous Socialists who failed to get elected that the party sold out to the immigrant hard-right and the Islamists. “The end justified the means,” one of them told Le Soir. They are condemning a multilingual electoral campaign which was conducted partly in Turkish and Arab and during which Socialists visited mosques to attract voters and held “ambiguous speeches denying the Armenian genocide.” “Whenever one of the Belgo-Belgians [the indigenous Belgians] complained he was told off for being a racist.”
In the Netherlands general elections are due on 22 November. Since the Muslim vote tipped the balance in favour of the Socialists in last March’s local elections, both the Socialists, currently in opposition, and the governing Christian-Democrats are putting forward dozens of Muslim candidates. However, when Wouter Bos, the Socialist leader, removed the Turkish candidate Erdinc Sacan from the list after the latter had denied the Armenian genocide of 1915 in a Turkish newspaper (a Turkish paper in Turkey that is) this led to an outcry both in Turkey and among Turks in the Netherlands.
The Dutch Christian-Democrats removed two Turkish candidates, Osman Elmaci and Ayhan Tonca, from their list for the same reason, eliciting another outcry from Amsterdam to Ankara. Last week the Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad commented that the parties “are frantically trying to put the genie back in the bottle.”
The Socialists are nervous because the position of Bos’s running mate, Nehabat Albayrak, on the matter of the Armenian genocide is not clear. Albayrak, who already is a member of the Dutch Parliament, refuses to comment on the issue. Nihat Eski, another Dutch parliamentarian of Turkish origin, though he sits for the Christian-Democrats, is being called a traitor by many Turkish voters for saying that he thinks the 1915 genocide is a historical fact.
In Belgium Emir Kir, a leading Socialist politician of Turkish origin and the Brussels secretary of state for monuments, is campaigning for the demolition of the Brussels monument that commemorates the genocide of the Armenians.
More on this topic:
Bruxellabad, 10 October 2006
Turning Red: Immigrants Tip the Balance in Belgian Local Elections, 9 October 2006
Brussels: Elected Politician Barred from Office for Leaflet, 4 October 2006
Grey Wolves in Politics: The Immigrant Far-Right Joins the European Left, 10 September 2006
Dutch Socialist Leader in Fear of Muslim Party Members, 19 March 2006
Muslim Vote Tips the Balance in Netherlands, 8 March 2006
Lessons to Be Learned: How to Criticize the Prophet, 11 February 2006
Meet the Mayor of Brussels: She’s a Muslim, 16 January 2006