These days, another experiment is taking place in Antwerp: mayor Patrick Janssens’ city list. In the hope of securing another term at the local elections in October, socialist Janssens has forged a cartel with the local Christian-democrats. CD&V may be a large traditional party in national politics, but in Antwerp it is but a small player. Moreover, alderman Marc Van Peel forms a veritable team with Janssens. I have yet to find one issue on which our opinions differ, he recently said.
Janssens also wants to seduce Open VLD. According to unconfirmed information, he has offered the second place on his city list to Annemie Turtelboom, the Justice minister who is planning to move to Antwerp. If she accepts, the city list will include all three “traditional” parties – an unusual demonstration of unison in a city that is known for being divided.
Patrick Janssens has never eschewed experiments. With a background in advertising, he put the A (literally) in SP.A, making the socialists “anders” – different. At the previous local elections, he campaigned with celebrity photos. These did not refer to his party, but merely to “Patrick”. The campaign was criticised, but it did result in an electoral triumph. In much the same way, the city list focuses on the mayor’s personality and the city renewal he stands for.
This scenario makes N-VA a real challenger. Bart De Wever, the party president who has made this nationalist party extremely popular, lives in Antwerp, but is yet to speak out on his position at the local elections. It is generally believed that he will head the list, as a candidate for the seat of mayor.
In a strange turn of events, N-VA has recruited Ludo Van Campenhout. This liberal alderman has always been charmed by Janssens’ project too, which ironically alienated him from his party Open VLD. He will now contest the man he was loyal to for years, sobering up for the occasion. Last week, Van Campenhout proclaimed that, with the help of a fancy Caribbean clinic, his drinking days were over. Now, how’s that for a campaigning experiment?