Now that the American midterm elections have passed and the world can breathe a little easier, we can focus on our own country again. The Belgian municipal elections took place almost a month ago, but what will they mean for Mechelen?
After the elections on October 14th, political parties all over Belgium have been debating and negotiating coalitions for the local town councils. In Mechelen, it took some time, but the final decision has finally been made. ‘There were negotiations for a coalition with CD&V, but in the end we decided to go it alone,’ says Pia Indigne, member of the winning party in Mechelen, VLD-Groen!-M+.
Best mayor in the world
Seeing as the city list got a result of 25 out of 43 seats on the board, they didn’t need to find a coalition partner to achieve a majority. ‘We’ve put a lot of thought into this decision, but the election results were clear and we are going to take our responsibility,’ says mayor Bart Somers (VLD-Groen!-M+). The election results he refers to were very clear indeed. His party earned 14% more votes than during the last elections in 2012, which brought their score up to almost 48%.
Somers recently won the award for ‘best mayor in the world’, and plans to keep honoring it by closely involving the opposition in determining the course. The elections also resulted in a voice for the newer generation. Pia Indigne: ‘It was definitely a conscious decision to choose for rejuvenation. The average age of the members of the city council was around 50, so some renewal was definitely allowed, I think.’
Out of the 43 candidates on the city list, 11 were younger than 30 years old. Seven of those were elected. ‘That’s a clear signal the city needed some young and fresh faces as well,’ says Indigne. ‘The council is supposed to be a reflection of the population of a city. Having said that, we didn’t except such a success for the younger generation so soon.’
One of these young elected people is Faysal El Morabet (23). ‘Starting from January, I’ll have a seat on the city council. Every month there will be a meeting in which the active cases will be discussed,’ he says. According to him, politics are important for everyone. ‘I would love to develop youth participation in the city more, as well as try to have more diversity on the board. In addition, keeping the housing in Mechelen affordable is a priority for me, and strengthening social cohesion in the city as well.’
But there are a lot more points on the agenda than only that. On their website, VLD-Groen!-M+ lists 463 plans to improve life in Mechelen. These include advancing the safety policy, providing everyone with a home and equal opportunities, developing public transportation as well as trying to keep the city as green as possible. ‘It’s not easy,’ says Indigne, ‘but we have six years to accomplish as many of our plans as possible.’
Text: Maïthé Chini