Elio Di Rupo, president of the French-speaking socialist party PS, has proposed Paul Magnette, currently mayor of Charleroi, to lead the PS list at the European elections in May. Magnette is himself a former Walloon minister-president, and was health and social action minister in the Walloon government before taking over the job in Charleroi. He is reputed to be a vote-magnet, but is also a serious contender to knock Di Rupo off of the top spot.
Di Rupo recently caused some misgivings in the party by nominating himself to lead the list for the federal elections, also in May. Di Rupo’s star is considered by some in the party to be waning: his period as prime minister of the country was hardly stellar, and his party in the recent municipal elections lost votes to the greens of Ecolo. His decision to lead the federal list also closes one door to Magnette, with the European position as a consolation prize.
However Magnette’s leadership of the PS list contains a poison pill: at six months from the elections, he has already announced he will not take his seat in the European Parliament, but will instead continue as mayor in Charleroi.
“Paul is a specialist in European affairs, and knows the European challenges better than anyone,” Di Rupo said in a statement. The claims, however justified in fact, are however moot, given that Magnette has no intention of spending even a day sitting in the hemicycle in Brussels.
Magnette is bound by the recently-adopted rule within the PS that no elected official may hold more than one elected post. This is in contrast to how things were before, when Di Rupo, even when prime minister, continued to be mayor of the city of Mons.
“I wish to make it quite clear,” Magnette said. “I will remain mayor as I announced. I want to be on this [European] list in order to communicate the values and the plans of the PS, but I am not looking for a seat.”
The PS currently has three seats in the European parliament. The final say on the composition of lists in the May elections will be left to a party conference in March.