The rule to keep the far-right out of Parliament: what is the cordon sanitaire?
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The rule to keep the far-right out of Parliament: what is the cordon sanitaire?

A figurehead of the far-right Vlaams Belang said that he had reached an agreement with the Flemish parliament's biggest party. Credit: Wikipedia

The leaders of the far-right party Vlaams Belang want to break the ‘cordon sanitaire’ in the government designed to keep them out.

The term ‘cordon sanitaire’ has its origins in agriculture, where it indicates a kind of protective circle that is placed around a farm to keep an infectious disease out.

In Belgian politics, it has been used since 1989 by the traditional parties to isolate and exclude the extreme right-wing Vlaams Blok. When the party won 17% of the votes in the municipal elections in Antwerp, leader the Agalev (now Groen) party Jos Geysels, proposed not to cooperate with Vlaams Blok.

When on the national elections in 1991, the Vlaams Blok gained an unseen amount of votes, all parties decided to support the cordon to keep the extreme right out of the government.

Later, after the Vlaams Blok became the Vlaams Belang, the cordon sanitaire remained intact. However, in contrast to when it was first established, there is no longer a written agreement between the parties not to cooperate with Vlaams Belang, although the verbal agreement has remained.

However, due to the success of Vlaams Belang in the Flemish, federal and European elections, the votes to abolish the cordon are gaining traction. In any case, N-VA’s Bart De Wever has indicated that he does not exclude any party for negotiations about the new formation of the government.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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