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Belgian king meets far-right leader in first since 1936


AFP Brussels
King Philippe of Belgium met with the Flemish far-right party leader on Wednesday, the first time since 1936 that an extreme right-wing party has been received by the monarch.
The royal palace announced the meeting with the 32-year-old Tom Van Grieken of the Vlaams Belang party, which scored a surprise second place in Dutch-speaking Flanders in federal and regional elections on Sunday.
While extremely limited, the role of the Belgian monarch is to serve as a facilitator to build a ruling coalition, a complicated task in a country deeply split between French and Dutch speaking communities.
The Vlaams Belang party emerged second in Flanders, behind the nationalist but more mainstream N-VA party.
Before the announcement Van Grieken told Flemish media that he would definitely accept the invitation, should he get one.
"If you want to get respect you have to show respect, and that comes from both sides," he told Radio 1.
In the European Parliament, the party is allied with Marine Le Pen's National Rally party, which came out on top in France in EU elections on Sunday.
With Socialists and Greens the victors in the French-speaking Wallonia region and Brussels, Belgium faces difficult negotiations to form a government.
Philippe of Belgium has already consulted various party leaders about prospects for a new coalition and asked outgoing Prime Minister Charles Michel to manage affairs for the time being.
"Just the idea of seeing Vlaams Belang arrive at the Palace scares the hell out of me, but in view of the democratic result in Flanders, no one will hold it against the King to receive them," Maxime Prevot, head of the French-speaking centrists CDH party, told Belga news agency.
Belgium took a record 541 days to form a government in 2010 and 2011.

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First Published: May 29 2019 | 3:20 PM IST

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