Wallonia Parliament President resigns over Dubai trip scandal

Wallonia Parliament President resigns over Dubai trip scandal
Walloon parliament chairman Jean-Claude Marcourt pictured during a plenary session of Walloon parliament in Namur, Wednesday 29 June 2022. Credit: BELGA PHOTO/ ERIC LALMAND

The President of the Parliament of Wallonia, Jean-Claude Marcourt (PS), resigned from his post after meeting with party leaders on Monday evening. Marcourt is at the centre of a scandal involving the misuse of public funds in a trip to Dubai which took place in 2021.

The Walloon Parliament continues to be rocked by successive scandals revolving around the abuse of power and public funds. Last week, two members of the Office of the Wallonia parliament were exposed as having racked up €19,000 in expenses for a four-day trip in Dubai.

The allegations also include the disgraced Walloon Parliament Clerk, Frédéric Janssens, who is currently suspended from his role after allegations of bullying and harassment, and having installed a "climate of terror" in his dealings with staff and parliamentarians.

Despite standing down, Marcourt maintains his innocence over the trip. “I don't think I made any mistakes. I believe that since I took up my position as chairman in September 2019, I have done everything as it should be," Marcourt said.

"There is no way I would just resign and give the impression that I made a mistake. But I support the demand for a collective dismissal of the agency. To make that happen, I am prepared to resign spontaneously," he added.

The decision was welcomed by PS chairperson Paul Magnette on Twitter.

Translation: I welcome the decision of Jean-Claude Marcourt to resign in order to make possible the renewal of the Office of the Parliament of Wallonia. This act was necessary to restore the credibility of the institution and restore confidence between Walloon citizens and their elected representatives.

On Friday, Magnette had called on the entire Office of Wallonia's Parliament to resign following revelations of Parliament's excessive spending, particularly an expensive trip of registrar Frédéric Janssens and Jean-Claude Marcourt to Dubai last year. Sophie Pécriaux (PS) immediately resigned from the office of the Parliament.

No MR resignations

Yet MR chairperson Georges-Louis Bouchez does not believe that his party members in the Office, Jacqueline Galant and Sybille de Coster-Bauchau, need to resign, pushing the responsibility onto Marcourt.

However, Bouchez welcomed Marcourt's resignation, adding that his party was ready "to work on a new Office with a new chairperson."

The Office's fifth member, Manu Disabato (Ecolo), on Monday said that he would resign if Marcourt had not handed in his resignation by Monday evening.

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PTB opposition leader Germain Mugemangango said on Twitter that Marcourt's resignation is "the minimum given the €20,000 trip to Dubai."

"The other members of the bureau have let things take their course and derailed parliamentary spending by tens of millions and must also resign," according to party leader Germain Mugemangango  on Twitter.

Wallonia President Jean-Claude Marcourt and his registrar Frédéric Janssens have been lambasted after it was revealed that they spent €20,000 taxpayer's money on a four-day trip to Dubai last year.

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