"Cordon sanitaire was good for N-VA"

Flemish Christian democrat senator Rik Torfs has said that the 'cordon sanitaire' used against the far right was a mistake. Mr Torfs believes that the decision to ostracise the far right Vlaams Blok contributed to the success of Bart De Wever and his Flemish nationalist party N-VA in Flanders.

To understand the 'cordon sanitaire' we have to go way back in history. In the 1980's traditional political parties still picked up the lion's share of votes at elections, but in 1988 Vlaams Belang predecessor Vlaams Blok polled 17% of the vote in Antwerp. Stunned the 'democratic' parties decided to ostracise the Flemish far right and to rule out all co-operation. As a result a vote for Vlaams Blok became a lost vote.

The 'cordon' exists to this day. Senator Rik Torfs says that for many years he defended the practice but has now concluded that its results are particularly negative.

"The cordon resulted in many frustrations for the Flemish nationalists."

Right wing nationalists were excluded and according to Mr Torfs this led to the gigantic success of Bart De Wever, whose Flemish nationalist N-VA is now Belgium's biggest party.

Moreover, Mr Torfs argues that the traditional parties in Flanders failed to adapt and modernise.

"Without the 'cordon' Bart De Wever would never have been where he is today because nationalists would have had a better representation and because other parties would have had to organise themselves better as a result."

Mr Torfs believes that the 'cordon' should be dismantled because it stigmatises a great number of Flemish people.