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The City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis) of Antwerp, Belgium, stands on the western side of Antwerp's Grote Markt (Great Market Square). Erected between 1561 and 1565 after designs made by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt and several other architects and artists, this Renaissance building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences. The City Hall is inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List along with the belfries of Belgium and France. Margaret of Parma hands over the keys to the city, by Henri Leys In the 16th century Antwerp became one of the busiest trading ports and most prosperous cities in Northern Europe. The municipal authorities wished to replace Antwerp's small medieval town hall with a more imposing structure befitting the prosperity of the great port city. Antwerp architect Domien de Waghemakere drafted a plan (c. 1540) for a new building in a style typical of the monumental Gothic town halls of Flanders and Brabant. But the threat of war prevented any progress on the project. The building materiasl intended for the city hall were instead used to shore up the city defenses. Not until about 1560 new plans were developed. In the meantime Gothic architecture had gone out of fashion. The new designs for the city hall were in the new Renaissance style. Completed in 1565, the building lasted hardly a decade before being burnt to a shell in the Spanish Fury of 1576. It was restored three years later. The low arcaded ground story is of rusticated stone, and at one time housed little shops. Above are two stories with Doric and Ionic columns separating large mullioned windows, and a fourth story forming an open gallery. The richly ornamented central section, which rises above the eaves in diminishing stages, holds female statues representing Justice, Prudence, and the Virgin Mary, and bears the coats of arms of the Duchy of Brabant, the Spanish Habsburgs, and the Margraviate of Antwerp. Renovations during the late 19th century by architects Pierre Bruno Bourla, Joseph

Belgium Worker’s Party obtains excellent results in federal, regional and European elections

Originally published: Fight Back News (May 27, 2019)

After a phenomenal and social campaign, the Belgian Workers’ Party (PTB-PVDA) has confirmed its progress throughout the country, with results ranging from 6.6% in Flanders to over 12% in Brussels and 13.5% in Wallonia. The genuine left thus sends 12 members to the federal parliament, 1 member to the European Parliament, 11 members to the Brussels Parliament, 4 members to the Flemish Parliament and 10 members to the Walloon Parliament. In addition, the PTB will have 4 senators. The number of PTB parliamentarians therefore, increases from 8 to 42. At the national level, the PTB has become the 5th largest party among the 12 parties with elected representatives. In his victory speech in Antwerp, PTB chairman Peter Mertens said: “He who fights can lose. He who does not fight has already lost,” said Bertolt Brecht. We fought. Like David against Goliath. Well-paid people said Goliath would win. They said they would bury David. They said that in Flanders, this would not happen. Well, no, no. We are David. We fought. And we won!” After the 2 seats in the federal parliament won in 2014, with Raoul Hedebouw and Marco Van Hees, this is the first time that the PTB sends deputies to the federal parliament from Flanders, where the situation is much more on the right than in Wallonia.

Mertens:

During this campaign, the PTB imposed a debate on matters of concern to the people: 6% VAT on energy, free public transport, the cost of health care, tax injustice. Having to work longer years, the people are fed up with. Having to work more flexibly, the people are fed up with. The people are fed up with a society where the rich are getting richer and richer and the poor are getting poorer.

But we also have to face the rise of the far right, with Vlaams Belang coming second in Flanders, tripling its score and getting 18.5% in northern Belgium. “The rise of the far right must incite all traditional parties to reflect,” continues Peter Mertens.

They have an important responsibility. And they repeated that the N-VA [the largest party, Flemish nationalist and right-wing] was a barrier against the far right. But it’s a bridge for her! The far right divides people, spreads hatred. We, the authentic left, are fighting for solidarity, for the unity of the workers. Our social security is united, our country remains united and the PTB is united. The far right has nothing to offer the people. It is up to us to prove it: fascism will not pass!

Raoul Hedebouw, national spokesperson and federal member of Parliament for the PTB, talks about “a major bright red breakthrough on May 26”. He continued:

We need a real break for social and fiscal justice. This is an important signal for all traditional parties. But what do we see? None of them are currently questioning themselves.

For the first time in its history, the PTB will send a representative to the European Parliament: Marc Botenga, with 14.5% of the vote for the French-speaking constituency. He congratulated all those who,

propelled this ‘spicy’ left that appears everywhere, in companies, in neighborhoods. Now we have a left locomotive that will be able to move the lines also at the European level. The genuine left will be necessary to offer an alternative to the far right and to the policies of Macron or Merkel, which open the way to the far right with their Europe of competition, austerity and money.

The PTB considers that it conducted its best election campaign ever. On this point, the party chairman, Peter Mertens, said at the election evening in Antwerp:

What a dynamic, what an enthusiasm, what a commitment! And I would like to begin by applauding all the volunteers and militants who have worked in all the provinces, often in the shadows, often under difficult circumstances. They are people who make a difference, ordinary people, extraordinary people who act together… We can only do it together. Together, we have a world to win!

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