Open VLD president quits parliament to go on pre-election tour


The liberal party president Gwendolyn Rutten plans to visit all 308 municipalities in Flanders in the run-up to the local elections in 2018

‘The essence of politics’

Gwendolyn Rutten, president of liberal party Open VLD, has given up her seat in the Flemish parliament to begin a tour of all 308 municipalities in Flanders due to last until the municipal elections in 2018. Her tour kicked off yesterday in Staden, West Flanders.

“It would not be possible for me to visit 308 municipalities while holding on to my seat,” she said. “In the coming months I want to meet and talk to the people, with both feet on the ground,” she said. “It’s a two-way street. I want to hear what’s going on. I want to step outside of my comfort zone, because all too often you only come in contact with like-minded people and party colleagues.”

Yesterday Rutten visited the hair salon in Staden run by Francesco Vanderjeugd, who is also the youngest mayor in Flanders and a member of the Flemish parliament for Rutten’s party. She even pitched in, washing a client’s hair.

“This is the essence of politics,” she said. “By visiting the 308 municipalities I’ll see a perfect cross-section of Flanders and its society. Sometimes the barriers to approaching me are too high. I’m doing this as Gwendolyn, not in the name of the party.”

Her seat in the parliament will be taken over by Danielle Vanwesenbeeck, the award-winning CEO of Leuven-based direct mailing company Mastermail.

Photo: Staden mayor and hairdresser Francesco Vanderjeugd shows Open VLD party president Gwendolyn Rutten the ropes

©Sandro Delaere/BELGA