Workers’ Party of Belgium gains ground in European, national elections

June 20, 2024
Workers Party of Belgium candidates
Workers Party of Belgium candidates on election night. Photo: @PTB-PVDA/X

Two days after the European Parliament elections ended, conservatives are working to secure a new majority, while liberal and green parties are reeling from heavy losses. The right-wing emerged triumphant with significant victories. Major setbacks for parties in power at the national level have shaken governments across the European Union, including Belgium, where Prime Minister Alexander De Croo resigned after Sunday’s results.

The right-wing New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and Vlaams Belang each received around 14% of the vote, securing three seats in the European Parliament (MEP) each. The liberal Renew party, conservative European People’s Party (EPP), and the social democratic Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), each won four MEPs from Belgium. The green parties won two seats, while the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB-PVDA) matched this number on its own.

“The PTB-PVDA is one of this election’s biggest winners,” said Raoul Hedebouw, PTB-PVDA president, on election night.

PTB-PVDA’s vision of a different European Union

In addition to Marc Botenga, an MEP since 2019, the PTB-PVDA will now be represented by Rudi Kennes, a trade unionist who used to work in Antwerp’s Opel factory and is a staunch anti-fascist. “We are extremely happy to send a worker to the European Parliament,” Hedebouw commented. “Even more so than in national and regional parliaments, the composition of our population [the working class] is underrepresented in the EP.”

Botenga and Kennes promise to stand together as they bring the voice of Europe’s workers and social struggles to the Brussels bubble. Leading up to the election, Botenga was one of the few MEPs to speak out against the EU’s plans for a new cycle of austerity policies and its support for warmongers.

The party’s European election program was based on similar values: advocating for more investment in public services, including transportation, a millionaire tax at national and EU levels, and new forms of solidarity, such as building a Salk Institute to keep health out of the reach of private companies.

The PTB-PVDA has also been vocal in its support for Palestinian liberation, including it in its program. “We demand the immediate and unconditional recognition of Palestine. We defend the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination,” they stated.

Success a result of commitment to left values

Unlike center-left, green, and progressive parties, the PTB-PVDA has maintained its commitment to key left values, contributing to its strength growing while others fall behind. Hedebouw explained during a press conference with party comrades Sofie Merckx, Peter Mertens, and Jos D’Haese that people vote for the PTB-PVDA because it promises to protect public services and secure better jobs and shows that it is ready to put in the work behind that promise.

“Our result from yesterday did not appear out of nowhere. We began to build this process 15 years ago,” Mertens said. PTB-PVDA’s dedication translated into successes beyond the European election: the European elections in Belgium were organised alongside regional and national elections, and saw a turnout close to 90% — the highest in Europe this time around.

The PTB-PVDA saw a substantial increase in votes across all elections, rising from 566,000 in the last election to 763,000 on Sunday. This result makes the party the fourth-strongest political organisation in the country with 15 seats in federal parliament. The party also performed well in the regional polls, significantly increasing its vote share and seats in the Brussels and Flemish parliaments. Wallonia parliament was the exception where it lost two seats.

The PTB-PVDA has reached this point by promoting unity and solidarity, breaking away from mainstream trends of regional division and political fragmentation, Hedebouw said. Following the recent EU election, the party’s platform will be more important than ever, demonstrating that there is more for the European people to hope for than just more austerity and the far-right’s harmful securitisation agenda.

[Reprinted from Peoples Dispatch.]

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