Dear Neighbors to the North, The chairman of the Flemish nationalist N-VA and Mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever (BDW), is more popular than our former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo among gays. That isn’t very surprising, as only the Flemish gays could vote in the survey by OUTtv, and at the last parliamentary elections, the N-VA had a monster score.
Elio never scored well with the Flemish, let alone the Flemish gay men. BDW is doing his best to be in good grace with the gays. He was a jury member for the Mister Gay Flanders election.
Elio was never popular with the Flemish gays. Not as a politician, not as the first gay Prime Minister of Belgium, nor as an outspoken gay activist. Without a doubt, the language barrier was a terrible disadvantage for Di Rupo. If we are to believe his spokesman, the former PM took intensive language courses to improve his Dutch. But it seemed as if he had to learn the language from scratch, for to command the language, one has to learn it first. Maybe Di Rupo’s language teacher did not understand this. Even after years of intensive Dutch lessons, Elio is speaking a kind of Dutch I do not understand.
The success of BDW among (Flemish) gay men is even more remarkable. I was always under the (subjective) impression that the Flemish gays were not very keen on BDW and his N-VA party. His statement that the city officials in his city Antwerp should wear no outward signs of religion or belief, including a rainbow t-shirt, created bad blood. That news was also cited on the cover of many newspapers in the south of our country.
But as with the rise of the far-right Vlaams Belang in Flanders, some twenty years ago, it is quite possible that despite these statements, the Flemish gays voted en masse for BDW and his party. The N-VA’s “crack down” approach attracts many gays, and as there are quite a lot of them in BDW’s home town, it works to his advantage. The fact that the gays from Antwerp have voted on the Vlaams Belang en masse in the past is public knowledge.
Should we then conclude that Flemish gay men are more likely to have a connection with the political right than the left? We probably should. Every political party that wants to crack down, especially when it comes to counteract gratuitous violence, can count on the support of the Flemish gays. Of course, the left is also against any form of violence, but are more likely to keep the gays in the dark about how tough, strict and merciless the criminal prosecution should be. The Vlaams Belang in the past, and the N-VA now, makes no secret of their approach. And the Flemish gays are not forgetting this when they vote, despite of other issues on the political agenda, sometimes leading to protests here and there.