Another two ministers have announced their decision to leave government at the elections in 2019 to take up the post as mayor of their home towns. Last week, Flemish health minister Jo Vandeurzen said he was leaving politics altogether at the age of 60, and gave no indication of what direction he might then take.
This week, federal trade minister Pieter De Crem (photo) said he would leave the government in May at the time of the federal, regional and European elections. De Crem’s party, CD&V, leads the majority in Aalter in East Flanders, where he intends to take up the post of mayor.
It was reported that De Crem had hoped to be selected to lead his party’s list in the European elections, but instead that job went to his federal colleague, work minister Kris Peeters. Peeters recently headed his party list in the municipal elections in Antwerp, where he failed to make much of an impression. The Antwerp city council will now be made up of a coalition of Flemish nationalists N-VA, socialists sp.a and liberals Open VLD.
De Crem said he had made his European ambitions known to party leader Wouter Beke, but in any case he had already decided to take up the job as mayor of Aalter.
Elsewhere, the Flemish government will lose another minister at the elections with the departure of Bart Tommelein to sit as mayor of Ostend. Tommelein is minister of energy, finance and budget.
And it was announced that Vandeurzen intends to take up his option of a premium offered to politicians leaving office, which in this case, given his long career, will amount to a lump sum of €400,000. Critics have complained at the extend of the premium in the past, and Sven Gatz, now minister of culture in Flanders, was finally browbeaten into refusing the premium when he left the Flemish parliament to take a job with the Belgian Brewers’ Federation.
Since they remain in politics, neither De Crem nor Tommelein is eligible for the premium. Vandeurzen’s decision to accept was defended by party colleague Eric Van Rompuy, who is also leaving national politics at the next election. He was recently re-elected to the city council in Zaventem, but will be able to claim his premium.