Photo Solidaire, Fabienne Pennewaert

Local elections in Belgium: the PTB realizes a breakthrough in all major cities

At the 14 October local elections, the PTB (Parti du Travail de Belgique, Workers’ Party of Belgium) – the only national party in Belgium – has made a breakthrough in the major cities of Flanders, while making further progress in Brussels and Wallonia. Particularly noteworthy are the results in Brussels, capital of Europe, with 11.6%; Antwerp, the second largest port city in Europe, with 8.7%; the two most important cities in Wallonia, Liège with 16.3% and Charleroi with 15.7%; and Ghent, the second largest city in Flanders, with 7.1%.

“We have achieved our objectives across the country”, reacted Peter Mertens, chairman of the PTB. “For the first time we have moved from an urban phenomenon mostly concentrated in Antwerp and Liège to a breakthrough in most large and medium-sized cities of Wallonia, the Brussels region and Flanders. The number of our local elected officials increases from 50 to 157.

In Antwerp, the PTB has obtained 8.7 % of the votes, i.e. 4 seats in the communal council and 19 seats in the district councils (the Antwerp municipality is divided into 9 districts). “Antwerp has been the most difficult battle”, says Peter Mertens. “The N-VA (the Flemish nationalist party directed by mayor Bart De Wever) has headed the most expensive campaign ever and has maintained its positions surprisingly well. Under such circumstances we are, of course, satisfied with the results obtained.”

For the first time, the PTB is entering the municipal councils of provincial capitals Ghent (3 seats), Leuven (1 seat) and Hasselt (2 seats), and has gained a first seat in six important medium-sized cities . “Thanks to its breakthrough in these various cities, the PTB is on track towards getting elected officials in the federal and Flemish parliaments of the northern part of the country for the first time of its history, on the occasion of the 2019 federal and regional elections”, remarked Peter Mertens.

In the Brussels region, the PTB has obtained between 10 and 15 % of the votes in the largest municipalities, jumping from 2 elected officials in two municipalities to 36 in seven municipalities, thus throwing strong local roots in Brussels-city, Anderlecht, Molenbeek, Schaerbeek, Saint-Gilles, Forest and Ixelles.

In Wallonia, the PTB has secured more than 15 % of the votes in Liège (third party), Charleroi (second party) and La Louvière (second party), as well as all over the red belt around Liège, with 25 % in Herstal and Seraing. The party also obtains 3 seats in the provincial capitals of Namur and Mons, and, for the first time, it has elected representatives in Huy, Tournai and Verviers. In Wallonia as a whole, the PTB progresses from 14 to 78 seats.

We have succeeded in imposing such themes as quality social housing.

“During the election campaign, the traditional parties have discussed at length about seats and coalitions. The PTB, however, has brought forward issues of substance”, develops Raoul Hedebouw, the party’s national spokesman. “We have succeeded in imposing themes that would not have been met with any response without us. Quality social housing. Free urban public transport and its importance in the field of ecology. The theme of governance with halving the salaries of mayors in important cities, because elected officials have to live with the people, not in another world.”

On the whole, the Greens have also obtained good results, whereas the scores of social-democrats are on the decline. Their loss is significant in Flanders, while in Brussels and Wallonia, the PS is losing ground but remains the most important party in many cities. In Flanders, the tide remains generally rightward, with a strong right-wing nationalist party, the N-VA and a growing extreme-right Vlaams Belang. Together, the N-VA and the Vlaams Belang have obtained 45% of the votes in the Antwerp municipality. “In these difficult times”, declares Pater Mertens, “our progression gives us reason to be optimistic. We deem it vital to sow the seeds of resistance, to go against the current in neighbourhoods and businesses alike”.

“As an emergent left force, we carry an important responsibility. In the first place an important responsibility in the struggle. All our elected officials and our party will be in the service of the social and national struggles. The progress made in these elections needs to be manifested in a move forward of social resistance. For the past three years, 9 billion euros have switched from salaries to profit. This wealth, the workers need to get it back. And elections alone will not do”, further states Raoul Hedebouw.

“From the bottom of my heart I would like to thank our 14,000 members for all the work they have carried out during this campaign. The PTB has continued to grow during the campaign. We have become stronger in terms of members, sections, and mainly in terms of ideas and activism. Thank you so much for your efforts”, has concluded Peter Mertens.