James Arthur Photography

1,000 attend “March for Democracy" in Ninove

Around 1,000 people took part in what the organiser had called a “March for Democracy” in the East Flemish town of Ninove on Thursday evening. The march was organised just ahead of the installation of the new municipal council and was in protest at the exclusion of the local party Forza Ninove that is led by an MP from the far-right Vlaams Belang from the municipal cabinet. 

Although Forza Ninove gained 40% of the votes in October’s local elections, it was 2 seats short of an absolute majority and none of the 3 other groups on the council were prepared to support its leader Guy D’haeseleer’s bid to become Mayor.

The With two councillors Flemish nationalists had chosen to support neither Mr D’haeseleer nor the coalition of liberals and the centre-left that was 1 seat short of a majority. However, at the 11th hour one of the two Flemish nationalist councillors defied the will of his local party branch and offered his support to the liberal/centre-left coalition. He has since been expelled from the party.

At around 7pm on Thursday the 1,000 or so protesters set off from outside Ninove Station and headed for the Town Hall. The marchers included leading figures from the far-right party Vlaams Belang such as Filip Dewinter and Anke Van dermeersch. The protest had been organised by Forza Ninove, the radical-right-wing organisation Schild en Vrienden and Voorpost, a right-wing Flemish nationalist group that is for the reunification of the Low Countries.

The police had called in reinforcements as a precautionary measure. However, there was no trouble. The protesters arrived outside Ninove Town Hall at around 7:15PM. With the exception of some booing when the rebel former national (and now independent) councillor Joost Arents swore his oath as a councillor the meeting passed without incident.