Election 2010: Few "ethnic" candidates

Seventy-four or 6.7% of the 1,104 candidates standing in Flanders in the 13 June general election come from the ethnic minorities. The figure is much lower than the share of the population as a whole that has foreign roots.

21.6% of Belgians have a foreign background.

Sociologist Jan Hertogen has analysed the figures. In order to qualify for the ethnic label candidates require at least one foreign grandparent.

The highest proportion of ethnic candidates is standing for the far left PVDA+ (18.1%). 11.6% of socialist candidates have foreign roots, while the figure for the ecologist Groen! is 8.7%. For the liberals, Christian democrats and Flemish nationalists the figure is 3.6%, while only 1.4% of candidates for the far right Vlaams Belang have foreign roots.

Mr Hertogen believes that parties are missing a chance here. Putting up ethnic candidates can boost results.

The sociologist told VRT News that ethnic candidates are not exactly the flavour of the month. He points to the Christian democrat list of candidates for the Senate that hasn't got a single member of the ethnic minorities on it.

Nobody to relate to

He wonders aloud: "What must the Christian Workers Movement think about the list? A whole section of the working population sees nobody it can relate to!"

Mr Hertogen favours a quota of ethnic candidates as is already the case for men and women.

The situation in Flanders contrasts with that in Wallonia where twenty percent of the population has foreign roots and twenty percent of candidates fit this profile.

The sociologist points to Wallonia's long history as a region that has accepted newcomers. In the 19th century a million Flemings went to live in what was then our economic powerhouse. They were later followed by Italians, Russians and Hungarians and by Turks and people from North Africa in more recent times.