After years of wrangling, the Flemish government has reached its most important decision. And just then the politician who profiled himself as the constructive factor slams the door behind him.
Karel VerhoevenChief editor
Today at 03:00
Perhaps there are two ways to view Bart Somers’ departure from the Jambon government. Here a politician takes his own pleas to strengthen local democracy seriously, puts his words into action and returns to his old love. He also gives his much-troubled party a nice gift with it, they can launch a new face. What does he sacrifice? A key place at a key moment for the Flemish government. It is difficult not to read disappointment in that, which of course reflects on his party, but also on Flemish politics as a whole. Only today does Somers reveal more about his motivations. Mechelen upstairs, he wrote yesterday. He had been mayor for 18 years.
In any case, this Jambon government is coming off badly. It has never been an inspiring club, no one could appreciate charismatic leadership, and the fact that the government still exists is mainly due to the fact that it cannot fall as a legislative government. Somers played a central role in that club. At the start in 2019, he seemed to be the opposition voice. The N-VA marketed the Flemish government as a project that had understood the signal from the Vlaams Belang voters. She would put it into practice ‘whatever it takes’, with firm statements, especially for newcomers. It turned out differently. Without much drama, Somers took over the discourse around integration and integration and gave it a Mechelen and more connecting twist. It was not the urban cultural struggle that came to dominate this government, but the countryside. Somers became the mediator. He has no politics of destruction. But now that the nitrogen agreement really has to be concluded, he is resigning. Lydia Peeters remains for his party for continuity. That’s pretty much it.
Five years is clearly too long for a government that cannot fall. This observation is not the first time. We have had years of bickering, and the politician who presented himself as the constructive factor is leaving seven months before the elections. There’s something of a shrug about it. That Flemish level is that important, shows the man who was once Prime Minister himself. That chance for ‘renewal’ for Open VLD is the opportunistic icing on the cake. Watch out to see who it will be. Because only a party that wants to market itself as ‘brokenly governed’ would dare to quickly fix a ministerial portfolio for a new face, purely as a platform for political marketing.