Elections 2024: The key players in Ecolo

With the June elections on the horizon, Belga looks at the key political figures from each party.

Ecolo, the francophone counterpart of Flanders' green party Groen, focuses on sustainable development policies aimed at preserving the environment and combating climate change. Today, Ecolo sits in several governments: the federal government, the Walloon and Brussels regional governments and the French Community.

The leadership of the party is in the hands of two people: one woman and one man. One of them must be from the Brussels-Capital region and the other from Wallonia. Since September 2019, the leaders have been Jean-Marc Nollet and Rajae Maouane.

Two leaders

Nollet is an experienced politician with a successful political career. He has been active in Ecolo since 1994, where he quickly rose from political secretary to minister in the Hasquin government of the French-speaking community. At the time, he was one of the youngest ministers in Belgian history.

He later held posts in the Chamber of Representatives and in the Walloon government. In 2018, he became co-leader of the party with Zakia Khattabi. He is best known in Brussels and Wallonia for his expertise in nuclear energy.

Maouane is a relatively inexperienced politician who was elected for the first time in 2018. She became involved in Ecolo as a student and then joined the party afterwards, as political secretary of Ecolo Molenbeek. She then worked with Molenbeek councillor Sarah Turine. After becoming elected in Molenbeek, she quickly advanced to the Brussels parliament in 2019. A few months later, she was chosen by Nollet to become co-leader. Her close contact with young people was to help rejuvenate the party. 

There has been speculation about the pair in the French-language media, particularly about uneven distribution of the position, with Nollet being ubiquitous in debates and campaigns but Maouane virtually invisible. 

Zakia Khattabi

Zakia Khattabi is the federal minister for Climate, the Environment and Green Deal. She became a member of the Brussels parliament in 2009 as the local councillor for Ixelles, and then also sat in the French Community. She later became president of Ecolo in the Belgian senate and in 2015, she was elected with Patrick Dupriez as co-leader of the party. 

Under Khattabi's co-presidency, Ecolo made large gains in Brussels in the local elections of 2018, becoming the second-largest party. In the 2019 federal election, Ecolo doubled its share of the vote, gaining its highest ever number of seats. As a minister in the De Croo government, Khattabi remained largely invisible. Climate policy is spread across all levels of governance, but her approach was rather cautious.

Georges Gilkinet

Georges Gilkinet was a football journalist for 15 years until he was elected to the Chamber of Representatives in 2007. He specialised in finances, and between 2012 and 2014 he was chair of the Finance Commission. Since 2020, he has served in the De Croo government as deputy prime minister and minister of Mobility. 

His policy focus in recent years has mainly been on Belgian railways, but with no major achievements. Although he obtained 2 billion euros for railway investments and an additional loan of 1 billion euros, he did not manage to solve issues including delays, problems with equipment, prices, aggression towards staff. Other aspects of mobility were rather lost sight of. 

Ahead of the elections for the federal, regional and European parliaments on 9 June, Belga English is publishing a series of articles about political parties and the issues they stand for.

Ecolo co-leaders Rajae Maouane and Jean-Marc Nollet during a party congress to launch the 2024 election campaign © BELGA PHOTO BRUNO FAHY

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