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    Protests awaited as parliament returns

    © Oakenchips/Wikimedia

    This afternoon in the federal parliament, newly-elected members are due to take the oath of allegiance to King and Constitution, but whether that will actually happen is still hanging in the balance.

    At issue is the presence of Vlaams Belang member and new MP Dries Van Langenhove, who is one of the two youngest members of the body. As such, tradition has it he will occupy the podium where Patrick Dewael (Open VLD) will conduct the inaugural session.

    But other parties have protested against the presence of Van Langenhove, who as reported earlier this week, has been charged by the prosecutor in Ghent with racism and negationism.

    Immediately, the other Youngest member, Melissa Hanus (PS) said she would not take part alongside Van Langenhove, and her party called for him to be removed from the podium.

    One objector is Simon Moutquin (Ecolo): “As a homosexual seeing the result for the extreme right in Flanders, we feel attacked personally on the grounds of our identity. Indirectly, we also understand the way in which other categories of people, who are also often discriminated against, may themselves feel attacked.”

    Members of mainstream French-speaking parties PS, MR, Défi and Ecolo intend to wear a red triangle on attending parliament today as a sign of protest. What effect that may have will be for Patrick Dewael, presiding for today, to decide.

    Another socialist, Ahmed Laaouej, warned that disruption of the ceremony would play into the hands of the extremists.

    We are not taking the oath in front of the extreme right or at the hand of the extreme right,” he told La Libre. “We are taking the oath before the nation, to repeat clearly that democracy is not something to be trifled with, and that we form a common force against this extreme right that threatens democracy itself.”

    Van Langenhove tweeted his defiance: “The people choose their representatives and the people elected me. The left needs to finally learn to respect democracy. On Thursday I will be taking my seat in front [of the chamber].”

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times