"It's exceptionally disturbing"

Belgium's Migrants' Forum has examined the heritage of what are described as the 'top candidates' on the lists of candidates for the Flemish parliament on 25 May and has come to the conclusion that less than 5% have an immigrant background. The organisation claims that this is 'exceptionally disturbing'.

The Migrants' Forum, an immigration organisation, made its count using name recognition and came to the conclusion that less than 5% of the most visible slots on candidate lists were occupied by people with an immigrant background. The Forum concludes that as a result candidates with an immigrant background have less chance of being elected. It believes that it is important that people with an immigrant heritage get a better representation.

This poor representation contrasts with the fact that 10% of the Flemish population has an immigrant background. The Migrants' Forum says that based on this figure the Flemish immigrant community should have twelve MPs with an immigrant heritage. At the moment there are 6 at most that fall into this category.

The organisation believes there is little hope for change after 25 May and concludes that the Flemish parliament is set to remain a white preserve.

Naima Charkaoui, the director of the Migrants' Forum, also pointed to the added importance that the Flemish parliament is getting given its new powers including labour and housing market that affect a large number of people: "Of course people should be selected on their political merits. Nevertheless it's striking that the parties have so few immigrant candidates among the top candidates and this a half a century after the big waves of immigration."

The Flemish parliament slates of Groen (ecologist) and SP.A (socialist) are pretty diverse with 11.9% of candidates with an immigrant heritage. They are followed by the far left Labour Party with 11.1%. 6.7% of candidates for the Open VLD liberals are of immigrant descent. The figures for the other parties are as follows: Christian democrats: 4.3%; Flemish nationalist N-VA: 3.8 and far right Vlaams Belang: 1.4%.

The lists of candidates for the federal parliament do show a different picture with overall 9.5% of candidates being of foreign descent.