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Far-Right Belgian Party Expected to Make Gains in Local Elections

Belgians are voting Sunday in local elections expected to strengthen a controversial far-right party in the predominantly Flemish northern part of the country.

The Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang) party has grown over the last two decades into the largest in Belgium's second largest city, Antwerp. Only a coalition of mainstream opposition parties has prevented the far-right party from taking control of the port city's council.

The Flemish Interest party is running on an increasingly popular anti-immigration platform. However, the party is far less popular in Belgium's mostly French-speaking south and in the capital, Brussels.

The elections also are expected to be a barometer of how Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's Liberal-Socialist coalition will fare against the Christian Democrats in next year's parliamentary elections.

First results are expected late Sunday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.