Bart De Wever

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Bart De Wever
Mayor of Antwerp
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 January 2013
Preceded by Patrick Janssens
Chairman of the New Flemish Alliance
Incumbent
Assumed office
2004
Preceded by Geert Bourgeois
Personal details
Born Bart Albert Liliane De Wever
(1970-12-21) 21 December 1970 (age 43)
Mortsel, Belgium
Political party People's Union (Before 2001)
New Flemish Alliance (2001–present)
Spouse(s) Veerle Hegge
Alma mater Catholic University of Leuven

Bart Albert Liliane De Wever (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈbɑrt də ˈʋeːvər]; born 21 December 1970) is a Belgian politician. Since 2004 he has been the president of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), a Belgian political party advocating independence for the Flemish region of Belgium within the European Union; he is also a member of the Flemish Parliament. He played a prominent role in the 2007 Belgian government formation and presided over his party's victory in the 2010 federal elections when N-VA became the largest party in both Flanders and in Belgium as a whole.

Since January 2013 he has been Mayor of Antwerp, following the 2012 municipal elections.

Biography[edit]

Born in Mortsel, De Wever attended the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL), graduating with a licentiate (equivalent of the master's degree) in History. As a student he was a member of the Liberaal Vlaams Studentenverbond (LVSV, Liberal Flemish Students' Union), the Katholiek Vlaams Hoogstudentenverbond (KVHV, Catholic Flemish Students' Union) of Antwerp and Leuven. He is a former editor-in-chief of the KVHV newspapers Tegenstroom (magazine of KVHV in Antwerp) and Ons Leven (in Leuven).

He was employed as a research assistant working on the Nieuwe Encyclopedie van de Vlaamse Beweging (New Encyclopedia of the Flemish Movement). In 2004, he was elected as president of the N-VA with 95% of the votes. He was the only candidate that stood for the election.

De Wever went through a rough stretch in 2006 when he accepted the conservative-liberal[clarification needed] Jean-Marie Dedecker as an N-VA member, causing a split with the CD&V party. In order to reconcile the party, Dedecker had to leave. Although he was extensively criticised, the local N-VA leaders permitted De Wever to remain as N-VA president.

In the 2009 regional elections, his party won an unexpectedly high 13% of the votes, making N-VA the overall winner of the elections together with old cartel partner CD&V. N-VA subsequently joined the government,[clarification needed] with De Wever choosing to remain party president and appointing two other party members as ministers in the Flemish Government and one party member as speaker of the Flemish Parliament.

Under his presidency his party gained around 30% during federal elections held in June 2010. De Wever himself won the most preference votes of the Dutch-speaking region (nearly 800,000).[citation needed]

De Wever has visited British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street on a number of occasions.[1][2]

He is an avowed admirer of Edmund Burke and of his political philosophy.

The historian Bruno de Wever is his older brother.

Political career[edit]

  • Member of the district council of Berchem (1996–1997)
  • Member of the Flemish Parliament. (2004–2007)
  • President of N-VA (2004- )
  • Representative (2007- )
  • Member of Antwerp municipal council (2007- )
  • Mayor of Antwerp (2013- )

2010 Belgian Federal Election[edit]

An early election was held on 13 June 2010, resulting in the N-VA winning most votes in the Flemish-speaking areas and the Socialist Party (PS) in French-speaking Belgium. Nationally the two parties were almost even with 27 seats for the N-VA and 26 for the PS, the remaining seats being split between ten other parties. For 541 days after the elections, no agreement could be reached among the parties on a coalition to form a new government and during that period the country continued to be governed by an interim government. On 6 December 2011 the Di Rupo I Government was sworn in.[3] De Wever and the N-VA were not included in the makeup of this government.[4]

Regarding the May 25 2014 federal election, PS party leader Elio Di Rupo noted that his party will be unwilling to enter into a dialogue with De Wever and the N-VA regarding forming a new federal government.[5]

Controversies[edit]

Former Prime Minister of Belgium Herman Van Rompuy in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives at the launch of Bart De Wever's book Het kostbare weefsel [The Delicate Tissue] in 2008

In 1996, he was photographed attending a conference held by the French extreme-right Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.[6] De Wever justified his attendance by arguing that "in a democracy everyone should have the right to express his opinion, even if it's an opinion I detest. And I always prefer to get my information first hand than to get it in a filtered way."

In October 2007, in reaction to the apology of the Mayor of Antwerp for his city's collaboration in the deportation of Jews during World War II, Bart De Wever said that:

"Antwerp did not organise the deportation of the Jews, it was the victim of Nazi occupation ... Those who were in power at the time had to take tricky decisions in difficult times. I don't find it very courageous to stigmatise them now."[7]

He later issued an apology to representatives of Antwerp's Jewish community.[8] Following these events, in an op-ed published in Le Monde, the Belgian French-speaking writer Pierre Mertens claimed that Bart De Wever was a "convinced negationist leader". De Wever sued Mertens for this allegation.[9][10]

Death threats and illness[edit]

In December 2013, the Belgian newspaper "Het Laatste Nieuws" received a bullet in the post with a letter addressed to Bart De Wever, apparently from a communist extremist. De Wever receives police protection.[11]

In November 2013, De Wever was admitted to hospital with severe anxiety and chest pains. [12] He was readmitted into an intensive care unit in February 2014 with a severe lung infection.[13]

Panda Suits[edit]

In March 2014, Bart De Wever made a live appearance at the Flemish television awards, dressed in a Panda suit; a reference to a decision by the Di Rupo government to import two pandas at a cost per panda greater than the legal maximum director's salary in Belgium.[14][15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Auteur: llo. "Bart De Wever praat met eerste minister David Cameron - Het Nieuwsblad". Nieuwsblad.be. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  2. ^ "De Wever has "a good conversation" with Cameron". Deredactie.be. 2011-03-18. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  3. ^ "New government sworn in at Laken Castle". FlandersNews.be. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 6 December 2011. 
  4. ^ Belgium close to governing coalition after 18-month gap, BBC News, December 2011
  5. ^ (nl) In Europe, we are one of the top countries, The Standaard, May 2014
  6. ^ Pierre Gilissen, La photo qui énerve Bart de Wever, Le Soir, 31 August 2007.
  7. ^ A Belgian leader flirts with the far-right, blog post by 'Charlemagne', 31 October 2007, hosted by The Economist.
  8. ^ Flemish nationalist politician apologizes to Antwerp Jews, European Jewish Press, October 2007.
  9. ^ (nl) Le Soir daagt De Wever uit, De Standaard, 8 July 2008.
  10. ^ (fr) Bart de Wever attaque Pierre Mertens, La Dernière Heure, 8 July 2008.
  11. ^ Michael Torfs. "Het Laatste Nieuws receives bullet for Bart De Wever". Deredactie.be. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  12. ^ Michael Torfs (2013-11-21). "Bart De Wever hospitalised". Deredactie.be. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  13. ^ "Bart De Wever ligt opnieuw in het ziekenhuis - Wetstraat - De Morgen". Demorgen.be. 2014-02-13. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  14. ^ "Panda De Wever valt van podium | VTM NIEUWS" (in (Dutch)). Nieuws.vtm.be. 2014-03-15. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  15. ^ Anja Otte. "Fifth column: Bring in the pandas | Flanders Today". Flanderstoday.eu. Retrieved 2014-07-09.