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Bart Tommelein to become mayor of Ostend
Flanders’ current energy minister Bart Tommelein will become the mayor of Ostend in January. Six week of negotiations following the 14 October election results will now see the Open Vld list leader in the coastal city give up his regional post to become its mayor.
Tommelein (pictured above) won the city’s “preferential vote” – votes cast for a particular person rather than the whole party. While the party still gets that vote, preferential votes allow voters to designate the person from that party they would like to see take city hall.
While Open Vld received 20% of the votes in Ostend compared to the Stadlijst’s 23%, Tommelein’s popularity led to negotiations going in his favour. His party has formed a majority coalition with Groen, N-VA and CD&V, putting the Stadslijst – made up of S.PA and independent candidates – in the opposition.
Tommelein will give up his post as energy, budget and finance minister in order to take the reins at city hall in January. With regional elections taking place next May, it was thought that, should he become Ostend’s mayor, he would remain until his ministerial mandate ran out. But he announced this morning that that would not be the case.
“It was a very difficult decision,” he said, “but the challenges in my city are great. Ostend has called on me, and I want to shoot out of the starting blocks with the rest of my team.”
Earlier this morning, Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois called it a “less than ideal scenario,” that “came as a surprise”. Bourgeois said that he had understood “that my colleague would remain until the end of the legislative period. I find it regrettable; we have worked very well together”.
Later in the morning, it was announced that Flemish MP Lydia Peeters would replace Tommelein in the ministerial post. As is the traditional when a minister must be replaced, she is from the same party as Tommelein.
Peeters is currently mayor of Dilsen-Stokkem in Limburg. Although Open VLD got the most votes in the city, and she was expected to remain as mayor, that will not be possible. “I am very proud to follow Bart Tommelein up as minister,” she said. “My first act will be to ask him to go over every file with me so that everything can transition smoothly.”
Photo: Kurt Desplenter/BELGA