Thirty years of socialist mayor comes to an end in Ghent

Summary

Open Vld’s Mathias De Clercq will become Ghent’s mayor as of 1 January, joining a majority coaliton with the SP.A-Groen cartel and CD&V

‘Dare to question ourselves’

After nearly 30 years with a socialist mayor, Ghent will now be lead by Mathias De Clercq of Open Vld. The annoucement was made on Friday, following six weeks of negotiations since the local elections in October.

The SP.A-Groen cartel lost its absolute majority this election, earning 33.5% of the votes. Open Vld gained nearly 9% on six years ago, coming in a strong second with 25% of the votes. De Clercq – confidently announcing on election night that “Ghent has chosen a liberal mayor,” – won the most “preference votes” – votes cast for a person rather than a whole party.

De Clercq, 37, immediately started talks with CD&V with an eye to forming a coalition. Finally, it was announced that the majority coalition will consist of Open Vld, with 10 city council seats, SP.A/Groen and CD&V.

De Clercq comes from a political family and has sat in the Ghent city council since 2007. He was the city councillor in charge of the port, economy and entrepreneurship. He is also a member of the Flemish parliament.

The city council will be “ambitious and dare to question and challenge itself,” De Clercq said in a press conference on Friday. “As a city council, we must absolutely lead the way, but we also need to look back to make sure that everyone is with us. We will, therefore, involve the people of Ghent even more closely, including developing neighbourhood budgets and city-wide debates.”

Following the 14 October elections, all new mayors take up their posts on 1 January.

Photo: Mathias De Clercq (left) and SP.A-Groen list leader Filip Watteeuw
©Kristof Van Accom/BELGA