Saturday, November 21, 2009

Coloring Outside the Lines

Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated an interview with Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter from the Dutch opinion weekly HP/de Tijd. It was published on Thursday in the printed edition of the paper:

“Wilders and I are well attuned to each other”

[From the printed edition of the Dutch weekly opinion-magazine HP/de Tijd, November 20, 2009]

Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter (47) has been active for nearly 25 years in Belgian politics, but he still is treated “like a leper” by most of his colleagues in parliament. Recently, he was threatened from the Netherlands for the first time. A conversation about the cordon sanitaire, demonization, and — of course — Geert Wilders. “Those who color outside the lines may not participate anymore.”

By Bas Paternotte

According to a comment on the Dutch website your head should be cut off and you are a kaffir who must put to death.

“This is the first time I have had the disturbing privilege of being threatened from the Netherlands. These threats are fairly explicit and leave nothing to the imagination. I have written a letter to your Minister of Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin [CDA, Christian Democrats], with the request to make short work of it. I still have not received any answer to it. I understood, however, that there have been talks about it with the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the Netherlands. We will wait and see.”

Have you been threatened more often from that quarter?

“Yes certainly, that happened to me frequently before. On that Asaan website I read that a man wanted to blow himself up in my vicinity like a real suicide terrorist. The problem with such websites is that they assert that they do not have the possibility of moderating those comments in advance. Which is a bit of an easy out; I think that is nonsense. If you want to avoid such statements being made, then you step in. But that is routine for the Islamists. They want to create an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, hoping to silence us. But I will not silence myself. I have lived through worse experiences.”

Like what?

“Naturally, we have had stones thrown through the windows at home, and my car has often been vandalized. In the Netherlands you were able to see such things happening when I was a guest in the TV program “Buitenhof” [in 2000, where he was attacked both in- and outside the studio by left-wing extremists]. The worst thing I experienced was a man who showed up twice with a shotgun at our party office, and shouted that he wanted to murder me. Fortunately I was not present then. The second time they were able to collar him. He has been convicted and without doubt is stuck in a mental hospital now.”

I’ve seen that you are protected during public appearances. Those are private security guards, if I remember correctly. Is that so?

“Belgium does not have a systematic security and surveillance, as in your country [The Netherlands]. Our Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, cycles through Brussels, so to speak, having perhaps one security guard around. Ministers have a driver, who must have had a security course. And that’s it. It is still a far cry here as compared to the Netherlands. This is also because we did not have had an incident like the murder of Pim Fortuyn. The Socialist André Cools [PS, Socialist Party, shot dead in 1991] was murdered in the nineties, but that was not a political assassination. The communist Julien Lahaut [KP, Communist Party] was murdered in 1950, and that indeed was because of his statements, but that is all as far as that is concerned.

“We actually are dealing in a very lax way with this. I am afraid something must happen first before the security issue is taken seriously by the politicians [EU Brussels]. Therefore I am quasi-permanently protected, as some other politicians of Vlaams Belang are as well. We pay for it ourselves. I have three daughters, 21, 18 and 15 years old. They have to cope with all this. Fortunately they are able to adapt quickly, like their father. Much is laughed away, and they of course are quite used to it by now. I always impress upon them: dogs that bark don’t bite. Fortunately these are not Wilders-like conditions that I must endure. I also think I would not want that.”

What do you mean by that?

“Geert Wilders is under permanent protection; his freedom of movement is extremely limited. This man hardly has any private life, ha cannot go anywhere. Besides, all his security guards are working indirectly for a Minister [Ministry of Justice: Ernst Hirsh Ballin, CDA] to whom they must also report. Thus there is a chance that this information then is used politically. But if I ever would end up in a situation such as that of Geert Wilders, I’m not sure if I would find the game worth the candle. On the other hand, your opponents then would have attained their end. And letting that pass does not really match my character. I will never bend to blackmail or threats.”

The cordon sanitaire around the Vlaams Belang has been put down in a resolution by Parliament, but is officially not in effect anymore since the municipal elections in 2006. Do you notice any difference?
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“Not quite, the cordon is still operative. I do notice however, that the right wing political parties in the meanwhile are willing to do business with us. They have to, for we are in most parliaments the largest opposition party. For that matter we are prepared to do business with all parties. Because, as it happens, we vote on content. But the left side is still giving us the cold shoulder. They will even not shake one’s hand, ignore us completely. As if I am a leper. This is a deliberate strategy.

“They are not only trying to push us into political, but also in a humanitarian isolation. Because everyone has the need for a pat on the shoulder or a kind word. But they ignore us completely and totally. It requires stamina and a thick skin. That cordon exemplifies exactly where Belgium ended up. It is a democratorship. Diversity is the utmost goal and the Islam should be embraced. The multi-culture is a new religion. One may not deviate from that; those who color outside the lines, may not participate anymore. Regardless of whether you win or lose the elections. Belgium is a politically correct pseudo-democracy, absurdistan. It is not easy to be a member of Vlaams Belang.”

What do you mean by that?

“My party is seen as dangerous to the state. Those who are members experience restrictions in many areas. Members are barred from staff functions within the military and the public authorities. That is some sort of en employment ban. Once I called for my dossier from State Security, that is our AIVD [Dutch Secret Service], but didn’t allow me to inspect it. They will not give it to me. I have my suspicions why. Because the party and I are under close scrutiny.”

After the European elections, the majority of the Dutch political parties stated that they in the future do not want to govern with the PVV [in a coalition government]. You are the specialist in this; is that also a “cordon”?

“Things happen in a more subtle way in your country. Dutch parties do business with the PVV, and my impression is that the etiquette is somewhat more normal. One does not yet dare to speak out too literally against the PVV. Yet I do note developments like we have also experienced. Just take that research on the PVV that was leaked recently. In your country [the Netherlands] that is called demonization, we [in Belgium] call that diabolizing, but still comes down to the same thing. For by such report Wilders is not only demonized but also criminalized. In fact, the government says: that man is a wrong one.

“Unstable characters such as Volkert van der Graaf [the murderer of Pim Fortuyn] derive a legitimacy from it for their attacks a politician. They will begin to regard themselves as a liberator of mankind. I have followed that issue with the comedian Herman van Veen and the comparison he made with the NSB [Dutch National Socialist Movement, notably as they had stated themselves in 1940: a “true Socialist” party]. I find that quite something. You then are talking of Hitler, Nazi-practices, mass murder and persecution of the Jews. I suspect that Van Veen feels supported in his views by such a report. I will now predict to you what that will mean for the near future: Wilders will continue to grow. This also has to do with the underdog effect. Some voters might feel sympathy just because the government runs him down. I would not be surprised if within due course a minister will order an investigation into the funding of the PVV [even though it is fully legal]. Purely to discredit the party. For the PVV simply has to be marginalized.”

To be clear, you now describe what happened to the Vlaams Belang?

“Roughly, yes. For instance there is a procedure underway now to take away our party financing.”

Please continue.

“The purpose of all this is to wear out the voter. Wilders soon must appear in court for his statements. This fits entirely with the attrition-battle that is in progress at the moment. If only you keep demonizing a party long enough, criminalizing and alienating, the electorate becomes nervous. After ten years long of court cases, the Vlaams Blok was finally banned [in a political process]. With much blood, sweat and tears we managed to build up the Vlaams Belang from nothing. And then we once again won the elections.

This is because the citizen ultimately is averse to such DDR-practices. That was a victory for democracy. The ballot box, that is where it should happen. Therefore I do think that Wilders will achieve a major electoral victory [at the moment he polls between 28 and 51 seats]. The established parties in the run-up to the elections will for as long as possible maintain that they are involving Wilders and the PVV in the game. But that is a democratic smokescreen. Because in the end they will keep him out of [coalition-]government formation. There will be an unholy alliance agreed among almost all parties. In terms of party politics, then, everything is possible, as long as Wilders does not attain any government responsibility. With us it went exactly the same way.”

Do you ever have contact with Geert Wilders?

“I can not comment on that. But I think we are well attuned to each other and at the same time do not stand in each other’s way. And do support each other when necessary, for example in the European Parliament. Although there are no concrete partnerships. I fully realize that Wilders already has it difficult enough without Vlaams Belang.”

Why don’t you want to say whether you have contact with Wilders?

“I have said what I said.”

What do you think about the PVV not having party members and strictly speaking consisting only of Geert Wilders?

“Vlaams Belang is indeed a party with 25,000 dues-paying members; we have 180 chapters and a Members’ Council. If a party such as the PVV has other arrangements, this does not mean that it is undemocratic. The PVV has a fraction in the Dutch Parliament and in the European Parliament, those people do not just work together for no reason. You cannot force a party organize this or that way. It the voters who has the final say. And you are familiar with the polls.”

A few years ago you said you wanted to become the mayor of Antwerp. That did not work out. You have been a politician now for almost 25 years. Do you still have ambitions?

“My only ambition is in achieving my political objectives. Belgium is in fact is the last colonial state in Europe. The Belgian authorities behave themselves, I mean the Walloons, as a colonial power against the Flemings. They rob our tax money. Thus I advocate Flemish independence. But Vlaams Belang in the meantime has achieved a lot.

The Belgian voter knows that the multicultural fairy tale has splashed apart like a soap bubble. Everyday reality proves that. Belgian politics has for years tried to mix oil and vinegar together. You can shake for an hour, for a day, for years: oil continues to be oil, vinegar remains vinegar. Yet they have tried to evolve a new liquid from it. The multicultural society has failed, has proven not to be feasible. Something we have been warning about for years. We now are being proven right. Even the Left-wing church is reluctantly moving to our side [see for instance Vander Taelen, Benno Bernard]. And that is an atonement that works very well against all vexation.”

You have experienced resistance your entire political career. Yet you still often give the impression of being in a cheerful mood. What makes that happen?

“I keep myself from turning sour with frustration, otherwise I would have to go through life being annoyed continuously. There also must be some delight in life and that is why I often keep things in perspective. That cheerfulness is necessary to be able to cope with the situation and to continue and to persevere. What cannot be said with laughter is not the truth.”