Verhofstadt forces out De Gucht as VLD chief
12 February 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt announced on Thursday that he would take over the leadership of the Flemish Liberal Democrat (VLD) party.
The announcement followed a crisis meeting on Thursday morning between senior VLD members including Verhofstadt and the party’s President Karel De Gucht.
After the talks De Gucht said he had agreed to hand the VLD’s political reins to Verhofstatdt in the interests of the party.
He will however, remain the VLD’s nominal President.
De Gucht angered Verhofstadt earlier this month when he warned that the VLD might pull out of Belgium’s coalition government in protest at plans to give non-EU foreigners the right to vote in local elections here.
Many rank and file VLD members are vehemently opposed to the votes for foreigners proposal and Verhofstadt himself has said he personally does not back the plan, which is generally far less popular in Flanders than it is in French speaking Wallonia.
But a majority of Belgian parliamentarians do favour the initiative and most analysts believe the planned legislation will be approved, probably at the end of next week.
Speaking to an angry VLD party congress last weekend Verhofstadt said that quitting the government over the votes question would be “stupid”.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news