Socialist leader pledges zero tolerance on sleaze
5 October 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s French-speaking socialist leader has been awarded special emergency powers by his party which is in crisis over sleaze allegations.
On Wednesday, the media reported that PS members were called to an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night.
They were left in disarray on Monday after PS member Claude Despiegeleer was arrested for fraud at a social housing company and Wallonia’s Minister-President Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe resigned over the scandal.
With Van Cauwenberghe gone, the media had widely reported that only PS chief Di Rupo had the political clout and public recognition needed to run the Walloon government.
However, commentators also pointed out that the two top jobs would be difficult to do at the same time and that the PS statute forbids it.
On Tuesday evening, though, the PS voted to change the statute so that “in exceptional circumstances” one person could be party leader and Wallonia’s minister-president.
Members also voted for tougher new rules on declaring benefits accrued from public positions held and more powers for the audit committee to investigate and punish cases of abuse.
The PS’ reputation has been scarred ever since investigations last month over the way three leading Charleroi socialists managed a social housing company.
Despiegeleer, Serge Van Bergen and Andre Liesse resigned their positions on the management board of the social housing project ‘La Caroloregienne’ after the allegations, first made on RTBF’s radio show ‘Vivacite’.
On Tuesday, Di Rupo pledged to weed out the bad apples from his party. “A social housing company is made for social housing,” he told Congress. “We have to make sure we investigate this at every level, in every nook of the PS. I believe our behaviour should on all points conform to our values and we can’t justify any breach when it comes to that.”
He added: “I’ve had enough – I won’t make it a secret – of the behaviour of a few throwing discredit on our entire effort. Transparency must be our number one word.”
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news