Crisis for Flemish Christian Democrats deepens as Welfare minister resigns post
Flemish Minister of Welfare and Public Health Wouter Beke (CD&V, Christian Democrats) has announced his resignation at a press conference on Thursday evening. The CD&V minister explained that the recent death of a baby in a Ghent nursery had “affected him more than he wanted to admit to the outside world”. Last week’s dramatic polling, in which the party finished at a mere 8,7 percent, also played a role in his decision. Beke’s resignation is the latest development in a deep crisis for the Flemish Christian Democrats, once the country’s largest political movement, after last week's poll already prompted party leader Joachim Coens to resign from his post.
Beke’s resignation did not come out of the blue. The CD&V minister has been under pressure for some time now, especially over the childcare dossier. The death of a baby in a nursery in Mariakerke, a suburb of Ghent, put Beke’s position under extra pressure. A parliamentary enquiry commission was set up to investigate cases of abuse in childcare.
At his press conference on Thursday evening, Beke admitted that the death had hit him hard. “Only my family, my relatives, some employees and good friends have been able to experience how heavy this has weighed on me in recent weeks”, Beke said.
“Only my family, my relatives, some employees and good friends have been able to experience how heavy this has weighed on me in recent weeks”
The minister also objected to the image of “cold-hearted power politician” that he believes has been put forward in media. “My integrity as a politician, as a human being, as a husband, as a father and as a militant is more important to me than everything else.”
The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back is last week’s poll which predicted that in an upcoming election, CD&V would become the smallest political party in Flanders – a strong blow for the long-time political powerhouse. The poll made “a deep impression” on Beke. “A growing group of people position themselves in the centre, but do not find us in this centre. As a party, we must embrace this centre voter. And if my decision can contribute to that, then I take it with full conviction. I am doing this to give the party oxygen.”
Beke said he will now return to the Chamber of Representatives, the lower house of the Belgian parliament.
Flemish minister of Welfare and Public Health Wouter Beke announced his resignation during a press conference at his offices in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT