Bart Albert Liliane De Wever is a Belgian politician. Since 2004 De Wever has been the leader 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 Chamber of Representatives.
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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.
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 party leader of the N-VA with 95% of the votes, being the only candidate up for election.
De Wever went through a rough stretch in 2006 when he accepted the conservative-liberal 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% of the votes in Flanders during federal elections held on June 13, 2010. De Wever himself won the most preference votes of the Dutch-speaking region (nearly 800,000). De Wever has visited British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street on a number of occasions. He is an avowed admirer of Edmund Burke and of his political philosophy.
In 1996, he was photographed attending a conference held by the French extreme-right Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. 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.”
He later issued an apology to representatives of Antwerp’s Jewish community. 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.
In July 2016, he called Angela Merkel personally responsible for the “mess she, herself has created” in relation to the 2016 terrorist attacks in Germany. On the radio channel Radio 1, he claimed that Angela Merkel should have led a European military coalition against ISIS/ISIL in 2015, that she was not a true leader, and insinuated that she could have partially prevented the attacks. De Wever was criticized for this by the leader of the SP.A, John Crombez, who said to be ashamed for the claim that Merkel would be the cause of the “great problems in Europe”. De Wever’s remarks were also countered by other Belgian politicians, as well as by a Flemish journalist. De Wever also claimed that Merkel has caused the rise of Donald Trump, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen.