Conner Rousseau, the leader of the Flemish socialist party sp.a, has come under fire for spending hundreds of euros to buy adverts for two polls to find the most prominent personalities in 2020, Het Nieuwsblad reports.
Rousseau is only 28 years old, and was elected president of his party last year. Since then he has achieved recognition because of his youth, as well as his involvement in the creation of a new government and a series of appearances on the popular TV quiz De Slimste Mens.
The newspaper has revealed that not only did Rousseau issue a call to his party’s supporters to vote for him in the end of year poll organised by Het Laatste Nieuws, where he came in third place, he also took paid advertisements on Facebook to support that campaign and another related to a poll in the magazine Humo.
According to the paper, each campaign cost between €800 and €1,000. And Rousseau had spent even more earlier in the year to push his appearances on the quiz show. In addition, he took out ads on Facebook worth more than €10,000 to publicise his book, titled T.
Responding to the allegations, Rousseau pointed out that despite the advertising, members of the public were still free to vote for whomever they please. Besides, he said, all politicians carry out such campaigns.
The newspaper, however, was able to find out that while Vlaams Belang president Tom Van Grieken had also called on supporters to vote for him in the HLN poll – where he came fifth to Rousseau’s third place – he had not paid for advertising.
Similarly, the closest rivals to Rousseau’s position – Alexander De Croo (Open VLD), Bart De Wever (N-VA) en Frank Vandenbroucke (sp.a), had not even gone so far as to call for support.
The issue has attracted the attention of N-VA in particular, with Theo Franken calling into question whether party subsidies from public funds were being used for the personal promotion of the party president. Francken himself, who has slipped somewhat in the polls from his position last year, also pointed out that he himself had never paid a cent to campaign for a poll place, nor even called on the votes of his supporters.