Headscarved deputy in local parliament, a first in Belgium

 According to unofficial snap results, six ethnic Turkish deputies are among those deputies who will enter regional parliaments in Belgium after elections which were held on Sunday, including the country's first ever headscarved deputy.

In regional elections, the deputies for four separate parliaments -- the Brussels-Capital region, 89 deputies; Walloon, 75 deputies; the Flemish region, 124 deputies; and the German-speaking Community, 25 deputies -- were elected, with 30 Turkish candidates running in Sunday's elections.

Before Sunday's elections, only two Turkish deputies had seats in the Brussels-Capital regional parliament. According to the snap results, now the parliaments in Brussels and the Flemish region have three Turkish deputies each.

After Sunday's election, Mahinur Özdemir, 28, also entered the regional parliament. Before becoming a deputy, Özdemir had been serving as a councilor at municipal council of Schaerbeek since 2006. Schaerbeek has a considerable Turkish population.

Özdemir, who is a graduate of the human resources department at the Free University of Brussels and has a masters' degree in public administration, was a target for extremist right-wing parties during the election campaign.

The fact that during the election campaign her party used a photograph of Özdemir displayed in a way to conceal her headscarf led to debates, with her party denying that it tried to hide her headscarf, saying that the image was prepared by outside sources.

However, Belgian broadcaster RTBF said this is not the first time such a thing had happened and that the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party (CD&V) also tried to hide Özdemir's headscarf during the municipal elections of 2006.

Meanwhile, Emir Kır --who became the first Turkish minister abroad after being appointed as the minister of the Brussels-Capital Region responsible for historical monuments, cleaning, family and sports in 2004 -- increased his votes in Sunday's elections.

Getting 11,546 preferential votes, Kır received the second highest number of votes for his Socialist Party, after Charles Piqué, the minister-president of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, who received the most number of preferential votes.

Those who are elected to the local parliaments will officially take office next week.

In addition to the local elections, seven Turkish candidates ran in Belgium's European Parliament elections. Selahattin Koçak, who was considered mostly likely candidate to become a member of the European Parliament (MEP), got 35,000 votes; however, it was not enough to become a MEP.

09 June 2009, Tuesday