List-leader for SP.A in Antwerp not member of party


In a first ever for Flanders, the number one name on a political party’s list for the municipal elections is not a member of the party

‘My heart belongs to the left’

Jinnih Beels, the only independent candidate to have joined the socialists (SP.A) for the 2018 municipal elections, will head the list, the party has announced.

Flanders News reports that the former list-leader Tom Meeuws will drop to the second place. The decision was made following news that Meeuws is under investigation for breach of invoicing procedures at De Lijn, where he served as director of the Antwerp branch between 2013 and 2015.

It was already known that Meeuws, the head of SP.A in Antwerp, was fired by De Lijn in 2015, but exactly why emerged only last year. According to De Lijn, he did not get board approval for expenditures that exceeded €67,000, which is a requirement of the public transport authority.

Now that news has broken that judicial authorities are investigating the claim, he has stepped down to the number two spot on the list. Beels, who takes his place, was a police officer in the port city for 16 years and is now an independent advisor on diversity and security policies.

Beels originally joined up with a socialist and green party cartel in Antwerp, which was announced last autumn. She was second on the list for this year’s elections. The green party (Groen) has since pulled out of the cartel, and Beels, while officially an independent candidate, stayed aligned with SP.A.

‘Career devoted to solidarity’

A party’s local list is made up of its top candidates, with the assumption that, if the party wins the majority of votes in their city, the list-leader – now Beels – will become the city’s mayor. It is already unusual for the list-leader to be a person with migrant roots, but to not be an official member of the party is a first.

Beels told VRT that she sees herself not as an independent candidate but as a verruimingskandidaat, a word referring to a candidate that is running for office under the name of a party without being a member of that party. “The fact that I am choosing to run under this title is because I haven’t been involved in public politics very long,” she said. “But my entire career has been about solidarity in a society. And my heart belongs to the left.”

Photo: SP.A list leaders Tom Meeuws and Jinnih Beels
©James Arthur Gekiere/BELGA