Elections: mobility ministers score very different results

Last Sunday was election day in Belgium. Citizens had to vote for three (Flanders, Wallonia) or four (Brussels) different parliaments: European, federal, and regional (an additional one in Brussels). The respective mobility ministers saw different faiths.

Federal Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) has not been re-elected in the federal parliament. Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld) has been re-elected. Brussels Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) has also been re-elected. Philippe Henry (Ecolo) and Valerie De Bue (MR) were in Wallonia. The results of their re-election have not yet been available.

Flanders

The liberal party Open Vld in the Flemish part of Belgium has almost been halved. In her province, Limburg, Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters is the only one re-elected for the party. As her party’s results are so bad, it will probably not participate in the new Flemish government. So, soon, there will be another Flemish mobility minister.

On the federal level, the Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet will surely disappear. It is highly unlikely that his party (Ecolo) will again be a member of the next federal government. In his home province of Namur, Gilkinet was the leading candidate for Ecolo, but with only 4,329 preferential votes, he didn’t get elected.

In comparison, the leading candidate of Les Engagés (Christian democrats), Maxime Prévot, got 47,359 preferential votes, and the two other federal vice-premiers, David Clarinval (MR) and Piere-Yves Dermagne (PS), got 23,514 and 14,319 preferential votes, respectively.

Negative impact

In a recent statement, Gilkinet commented about the planned phase-out of combustion engines for new cars in the EU by 2035. “It is the wrong path to believe that we can continue driving with fossil-fueled cars for the next decades,” he said. “If we keep delaying this decision, it will negatively impact the European industry. Then we’ll be handing over the market to countries like China,” he warned.

Nevertheless, there’s a growing chance that the phase-out limit for ICE cars in the EU will be postponed. Right-wing and conservative forces are both pushing for this, and they seem to be the winners in the European Parliament.

Brussels

A completely different story has occurred in Brussels. The much-criticized Brussels Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) saw her Green party grow to 24% of the votes (+3,4%) and become the major Flemish party in the capital.

Despite being the motor behind the vehemently criticized ‘Good Move’ mobility plan, she was easily re-elected. She apparently even got votes from French-speaking citizens for what she stands for.

Nevertheless, it will be very difficult for her to implement her plans, even if she becomes the leader of the Flemish part of the Brussels Parliament. On the French side, the liberal MR party is now the biggest, and they were very skeptical about Good Move. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Not a priority

Despite Belgium’s still-growing mobility problems, mobility policy was not a major issue in the past elections. We will see how this will evolve now that most regions are politically shifting to the right.

The Green parties were the strongest defenders of comprehensive changes in mobility patterns, but they didn’t perform well in the elections overall. In Flanders, Groen lost approximately one-third of its voters; in Wallonia, Ecolo was almost halved. In Brussels, the Flemish party Groen did well (as mentioned above), but their Green colleagues from Ecolo also lost 40% of their votes.

Significant changes regarding mobility, public transport, and traffic in general will be more difficult to achieve in a seriously changed political landscape. Now, it’s waiting for the different governments to be formed. In Flanders, the party with the initiative is the nationalist N-VA; in Wallonia, it is the liberal MR.

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