Elections 2024: The key players in MR

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

Mouvement Réformateur (MR) is a centre-right francophone party that endorses liberal economic policies, individual freedoms and a strong federal state. The party advocates for social liberalism, supporting progressive stances on issues such as same-sex marriage and euthanasia while working to ban religious symbols in the civil service.

MR works to invest in clean energy, prioritising nuclear. It is also known for its pro-European Union orientation, promoting deeper integration and cooperation within the EU. Open VLD is the party's Flemish counterpart.

Georges-Louis Bouchez

Party leader Georges-Louis Bouchez has proven to be a polarising figure in Belgian politics. Known for his assertive and often controversial style, his term has been marked by high-profile media appearances, such as participating in a reality TV show and engaging in a televised debate with the far-right Vlaams Belang, breaking a longstanding political convention​.

Bouchez's critics accuse him of obstructing governmental reforms and tarnishing the image of the coalition government. They argue that his actions and rhetoric create unnecessary conflicts and distract from substantive policy work​. Recently, Groen's Tinne Van der Straeten accused Bouchez of "bully politics" and said she would file a complaint against him for defamation.

Meanwhile, his supporters within the MR appreciate his stance and believe his leadership brings a dynamic and youthful energy to the party. Overall, public opinion on Bouchez is divided, reflecting his ability to provoke strong reactions from both supporters and detractors.

Hadja Lahbib

Federal Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib has a background as a journalist and filmmaker. Her cultural heritage and firm stance on international issues, such as welcoming the International Criminal Court's move to seek arrest warrants for key figures in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have earned her respect domestically and abroad.

However, she has faced criticism for her decision-making, such as the controversy over granting visas to Iranian officials for a summit in Brussels, which led to significant political fallout and raised questions about her judgment​​. Despite these challenges, she is seen as a committed advocate for human rights and has been praised for her efforts to address antisemitism and other forms of discrimination, including​ support and funding for equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community in the Balkans.

Charles Michel

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, has been recognised for his role in managing the EU during significant crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and has been commended for his ability to forge compromises among diverse EU leaders​.

His decision to run for the European Parliament - a decision he later reversed - sparked controversy, however. Some EU diplomats felt his decision to campaign while holding the Council presidency was disrespectful to the role, causing backlash from member states who were informed in an uncoordinated manner​.

He withdrew from the process 20 days after announcing he would be the lead candidate for MR. His probable election would have compelled him to resign before the end of his mandate as Council president - scheduled for 30 November - and at the latest during the swearing-in before the European Parliament during the mid-July plenary session.

"My choice has sparked lively media controversies," Michel said. "I had anticipated some of them, given the unprecedented - bold, some would say - aspect of my approach. But I underestimated the extent and radicality of certain negative reactions - not within the European Council but outside of it - at the prospect of my participation in the European campaign."

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.

Sophie Wilmes, Hadja Lahbib, Charles Michel and Georges-Louis Bouchez © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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