Conner Rousseau returns after election success for socialists Vooruit

Conner Rousseau, the former leader of Flemish socialists Vooruit who quit after a racism scandal, is set to return thanks to his party's election success. His popularity does not seem to have waned during his five-month absence from politics. 

Not getting elected would have meant leaving politics, but in the event, Rousseau saw his party produce great election results - one of the few traditional parties to do so. Things had looked bad when Rousseau was compromised and eventually resigned over racist and sexist comments he made last year, but Melissa Depraetere took over as leader and led Vooruit out of the doldrums.

The election results show that Rousseau remains very popular. With more than 75,000 votes, he became the most popular politician in East Flanders. Voters thus seem to have given him the opportunity to restart his political career. On Monday, the party announced that he would be the lead candidate in Sint-Niklaas during the municipal elections in October. ​ 

Despite the controversy, it was Rousseau who helped the party to victory for the first time since 2003. His restructuring, enthusiasm and boldness as party leader paid off immediately after his appointment in 2019 and continued to pay off until a number of scandals in late 2023. While Depraetere continued the good performance initially, Rousseau's comeback in mid-April was welcome news for the party.

The electorate appears to have forgiven Rousseau and even given him a strong mandate, and he is likely to gradually move closer to the party leadership. While he and Depraetere have been close allies for several years, the next steps at the head of the party remain unclear. Rousseau may have won a lot of votes, but he is not beyond reproach and the party will continue to guage the public response to his return.


#FlandersNewsService | Conner Rousseau and Melissa Depraetere at the post-election meeting of Flemish socialist party Vooruit © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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