in Wallonia, the radical left is cutting croupiers from the socialists

On this Saturday, May 25, market day in Châtelineau, a popular town in the suburbs of Charleroi, hundreds of onlookers wander between the roast chicken stalls, the Bismillah snack bar and the covered market where inexpensive clothing stands abound, spice sellers and vegetable sellers. Red scarf around their necks, leaflets in their hands and a shoulder bag bearing the party’s symbol – a star in the center of a heart – there are half a dozen activists from the Belgian Labor Party (PTB) around the outgoing MP Sofie Merckx.

At 49 years old, she is the best-known figure of this radical left formation after Raoul Hedebouw, the president of the party, 46 years old, a tribune all television stations love: loud-mouthed and never short of a formula, he declared the day before, on the RTL-TVi channel, that his party was now a candidate for power. “Clearly, for all left-wing voters, he said, the challenge will be to make the PTB essential. The more votes we have, the more the PS or a party like Ecolo will have to negotiate with us. The PTB could be in a government. »

Two weeks before the federal and regional elections which, on June 9, will be coupled with the European elections in Belgium, this formation has the wind in its sails and will probably shake up the game: a poll credited it, on Saturday, 14.5% of voting intentions in Wallonia and 19.8% in the Brussels-Capital region. In Flanders, it stands at 9%: Mr. Hedebouw, a perfect bilingual at the head of a party that is still national in this torn kingdom, is increasing his appearances there. Not enough to worry the Vlaams Belang (extreme right), given some 27%, but enough to shake up the socialist left which is stagnating and the ecologists who are collapsing.

“Really change course”

In Hainaut, where the Flemish Sofie Merckx decided to settle around twenty years ago after an internship, the objective is to win a fourth deputy seat and carve out croupiers for the PS of Paul Magnette, president of the party and mayor of Charleroi. He recently described “assholes” his communist rivals – “cowards”he will then correct –, accused of “hide under the table” when it comes to taking responsibility, spending wildly to ensure their omnipresence on social networks and wallowing in populist slogans.

“What we want is to really change course, corrects Sofie Merckx. Coming back to retirement at 65 [en 2024, elle a été fixée à 67 ans], increase the minimum wage, tax the richest more, limit the privileges of politicians. We must also correct the practices and mentality linked to forty years of domination by the Socialist Party”, she assures. Long holding absolute majorities in Hainaut, the PS is now battling the liberal Reform Movement party to maintain its leadership in Wallonia: the latest opinion surveys credit them both with 22.5% in Wallonia. If this is confirmed, the PS will have lost almost half of its electorate in the space of forty years.

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