'Focus on Wallonia first': Belgian PM responds to Magnette's leadership pitch

'Focus on Wallonia first': Belgian PM responds to Magnette's leadership pitch
Credit: Dirk Waem/Belga.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has criticised French-speaking Socialist Party (PS) leader Paul Magnette's pitch to succeed him as the Belgian PM. Responding to the comments, De Croo called on him to focus on improving Wallonia's unemployment numbers.

Magnette, leader of PS, was the favourite to lead the country's Federal Government after the 2019 elections, as he was the head of the governing majority's largest party. However, he stepped aside to allow De Croo, of the Flemish liberal party Open VLD, to become Prime Minister.

In an interview given last week, Magnette stated that he would be unwilling to step aside again, stating that he would not "shy away from my responsibilities" if he were asked to lead the government.

In response, De Croo told VTM News on Sunday that he was surprised to see Magnette already on the campaign trail "less than 500 days away from the elections" in 2024. "If I were him," the Prime Minister added, "I would be working on the widening gap between the number of Flemish workers and the number of unemployed people in Wallonia."

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For De Croo, Magnette's position as leader of Wallonia's largest party should see him fully concentrate on "remedying" the region's unemployment figures. However, it is also likely that these comments are seen as the Prime Minister's way of pushing Magnette towards the role of Walloon Minister-President following next year's elections.

Moreover, De Croo is the second high-profile politician to criticise Magnette's comments, after the Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever stated last week that "it is unthinkable to form a government in which the PS will provide a prime minister."

De Wever explained that "Flanders does not have to suffer" under a Francophone left-wing-led government, which would oppose the N-VA's aim of turning Belgium become a confederal state.

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