Bart Somers resigns from Flemish government to focus on mayorship in Mechelen
Deputy minister president Bart Somers announced his resignation from the Flemish government on Monday evening via social media. He said he was opting to focus on his role as mayor of Mechelen and wanted to give space to new talent in the federal government. He is also returning to parliament, resulting in his successor, Tom Ongena, losing his seat.
The leader of the Open VLD group in the Flemish parliament in the previous legislature, Somers became the liberal leader in the government four years ago, responsible for Home Affairs, Administration, Integration and Equal Opportunities. Prior to that, he was minister president and party leader.
Somers is now shifting his focus back to his hometown, Mechelen, where he is mayor. "If my fellow citizens want me to, I will do my utmost as mayor in the coming legislative period to develop Mechelen into a welcoming and inspiring home for all its inhabitants," he said on Monday.
"Everyone knows that Bart loves Mechelen and that he wants to continue to put his political energy there," said prime minister and party colleague Alexander De Croo. "He had already indicated when the [election] list was being formed that he no longer wanted to be party leader."
"Only with new people at the top can liberalism grow again in Flanders"
Somers also wants to make room for renewal in the party, led by Ongena, who replaced Egbert Lachaert in June. "Only with new people at the top can liberalism grow again in Flanders," he said. "That is why I fully support leader Tom Ongena in his renewal operation. I call on my fellow liberals to give new talent the maximum chance."
He appealed to the party leadership to choose a new face as his successor. "Such a choice would not only be courageous, it would also guarantee the credibility of the renewal operation that has begun."
Somers indicated that he would return to the Flemish parliament. His successor, Ongena, will lose his seat.
"You were minister of Samenleven, but also of Samenwerken," Ongena wrote on X. "A bridge builder. Always ready to roll up your sleeves and tackle the problems of the Flemish. I wish you every success in continuing your good work in Mechelen!"
Somers is due to give a press conference in Mechelen on Tuesday at 16.00. The party will provide news about his successor in the coming days.
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