Despite bureaucratic obstacles, lists handed in today.
Linkse Socialistische Partij (LSP)/ Mouvement pour une Alternative Socialiste (MAS), the Belgian affiliate of the cwi, has collected 13,000 signatures to be able to stand in the forthcoming regional and European elections.
According to Belgian election law, parties – in order to be able to contest the elections – either need the signatures of 5 members of parliament or have to collect 5,000 signatures of people who are entitled to vote in the Walloon area as well as 5,000 in Flanders.
Obviously, this is a greater burden for smaller parties and organizations that do not yet have any parliamentary representation. LSP/MAS, which for the first time has decided to run LSP/MAS lists in both parts of Belgium, has done a marvellous job over the past weeks in gathering the required signatures.
Not only is it necessary to collect all the signatures, they also need to be checked and verified by the respective councils before the lists can be handed in to the registration offices in Mechelen (Flanders) and Namur (Walloon area).
This, however, seems to have become increasingly problematic because some councils have not yet received their electoral registers in order to be able to verify and approve the signatures. Some councils claim that they cannot approve the signatures before Monday (April 19). The last day however to hand in the lists is Saturday, April 17.
At a press conference, Anja Deschoemacker who heads the LSP’s European list in Flanders, said; “For a small party, it is already difficult enough to hand in the signatures to the respective councils where people who signed live but if, on top of that, we will only get the signatures back on Friday or even later, we will be confronted with unsolvable practical problems.”
LSP/MAS presume that, in some cases, the councils deliberately try to make things difficult. LSP/MAS said that in one particular town, Bree, the VLD (Flemish Liberal Democrats, which leads the national government coalition) mayor used the lack of the electoral register to justify his political decision not to accept the signatures.
Laurent Panneels, a spokesperson of the ministry of internal affairs, has tried to talk himself out of this by saying that as long as the new electoral registers had not arrived, the old ones should be used. This could lead to a situation where signatures will not get approved, simply because the electoral register is outdated.
Anticipating problems with the bureaucracy, LSP/MAS went beyond collecting the required 10,000 signatures. With 13,000 signatures collected, we are sure that – even though there are people who would rather see us fail to stand – we will successfully hand in our list on Friday. By doing so, we will be able to provide an electoral and political alternative to all the established parties who are involved in corruption scandals and attacking the living standards of the working class. We also aim to counter the Vlaams Blok, an extreme right-wing party which has been able to build sizeable support in Flanders because of its anti-establishment rhetoric.
Most importantly, the target of LSP/MAS is to get the party known in the whole of Belgium and to win new people to the ideas and the programme of socialism.