Somers will continue his ministerial mandate until Sunday evening and then return to Mechelen as mayor. The liberal indicated at the press conference that he had reached a point where he could decide for himself about his political future. “The fundamental reason why I do this is the love for my city. It is never a good time to leave, but I am convinced that continuity in the Flemish government is assured.”
“I believe the answers to today’s challenges lie locally,” Somers continued. “Affordable housing will be built in the cities. Cities must find a solution for the climate. Also for the challenges surrounding mobility.”
Somers emphasized that he has always remained involved locally. “I have always remained involved in the board in Mechelen and want to continue to do so. It is clear to me that I want to lead this city with this team. But in local politics you cannot start doing that two days before the elections.” Somers wants to put the time and energy he would put into the Flemish elections into his city. “I want to make a clear choice for Mechelen. If that is what the people of Mechelen want, I am prepared to remain mayor.”
Somers also gave a second reason why he is returning as mayor. “That’s concern. We live in a time when our democratic model is under pressure from populist and extremist forces. That is the challenge of next year’s elections. Don’t those parties threaten to erode the values we stand for?”
Kristof Calvo (Green) was also present at the press conference. “Bart has always been in Mechelen,” he says. “The return is no surprise for the people of Mechelen. The first conversations date back to before the summer. We are taking a new and atypical step. Mechelen has always been atypical. There is never enough cooperation. We present that to you today. We are taking a new step and standing up in Mechelen politics under one flag. This is the birth of ‘Voor Mechelen’.” Bart Somers will be the leader on the Mechelen list. Kristof Calvo will push the list.
Somers, who is also Minister for Society, Integration and Domestic Administration in the Flemish government, said that with his resignation he also wanted to “pave the way for the further renewal of Open Vld”. The Liberal Party has found itself in difficult waters in recent months, but according to Somers there is “more need than ever for a strong Liberal Party”. He also expressed his support for chairman Tom Ongena and his renewal operation: “New faces in themselves are not sufficient, but they are the necessary condition for recovery.”
It is not yet known who will succeed Somers. The party promises more news about this in the coming days. Somers himself says he hopes for someone from the new generation.
For Ongena, it is the second time this month that he has had to appoint a new minister, after the previous resignation of Vincent Van Quickenborne as Minister of Justice in the federal government. He then launched a new name with Paul Van Tigchelt. Somers was also involved in that decision, but the way in which the choice was made was met with much criticism from party members.