A Divisive Politician

Good news from the heart of Europe.

GHENT, Belgium – The frontrunner in Belgium's elections this weekend is running on perhaps the ultimate in divisive proposals: the breakup of the nation.

Despite its status as the home of the European Union, Belgium itself has long struggled with divisions between its 6 million Dutch-speakers and 4.5 million Francophones but until recently talk of a breakup has been limited to extremists.

Now, Bart De Wever of the centrist New Flemish Alliance is pressing for exactly that. What once seemed a preposterous fantasy of the political fringes has, in the mouth of a man seen as a possible prime minister, suddenly takes on an air of plausibility.

"We are in each other's face," De Wever told 800 party faithful packed into a sweaty theater here ahead of Sunday's elections. "And together we are going downhill fast. Flanders and Wallonia must be masters of their own fate."

The consequences of a precedent-setting split would be felt as far away as Spain: wealthy Catalonia has engaged in a long-standing campaign for independence and Basque separatists still set off bombs in their quest for autonomy.

Italy's Northern League, which is in coalition with Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party, has also advocated a split between the rich north and the impoverished south...

De Wever's party is forecast to win 26 percent of the vote — way up from 3.2 percent in 2007. That means his party will likely emerge as the biggest in parliament with the right to try to cobble together a coalition government. He will unlikely get other mainstream parties to vote for a Belgian breakup.

The more decentralization the better, but I simply don’t understand Europeans.  Dutch and French speakers, Englishmen and the Irish, North and South Italians, and Spaniards and Basques refuse to live under the same government but they all lock up anybody who speaks out against getting overrun by Muslims and blacks?   I remember reading that Jörg Haider while in the Austrian government went to war with the Slovene language and thinking that he must have had bigger demographic/cultural problems to worry about (Austria has 14,000 Slovenes and 300,000 Turks).  To an American this seems very strange.