IN Belgium’s municipal and provincial elections held on 14th October the Workers’ Party of Belgium (PTB) made a strong showing and affirmed itself as an emerging left force in the whole country. The PTB’s electoral list “PTB+” obtained a total of 31 municipal councillors, 17 district councillors in Antwerp and four provincial councillors. The PTB won a total of 52 local seats in 12 municipalities, seven city districts and two provinces.
Previously, the PTB held just 15 seats in eight municipalities.
The party’s objective was to hold its existing 15 seats, and to win at least one seat in three major cities: Antwerp, Liège and Brussels. But based on a dynamic grassroots campaign, focusing on social issues — housing, health care, transport, education, jobs and taxes — voters gave the PTB much more than it had hoped for.
PTB leader Peter Mertens will be accompanied by three more PTB councillors in Antwerp while the PTB captured nine seats in the industrial municipalities surrounding Liège. In Brussels a member of the Communist Party of Wallonia-Brussels was elected on the PTB+ slate along with two other PTB candidates.
Peter Mertens said: “Finally, there will be a party in Antwerp that will wage a social opposition, a strong opposition facing the future mayor Bart De Wever”, who made huge inroads in Antwerp and elsewhere with his rightist Flemish nationalist party NVA (New Flemish Alliance). “We now have to transform our election victory into a strong organisation that can put pressure from the bottom up.
Our challenge now is to build a Left alternative and wage a militant opposition.” The NVA wants to split up Belgium after the federal, regional and European elections of 2014. The current federal government, led by social-democrat Elio Di Rupo, will pursue and intensify its policy of harsh austerity measures. In order to counter both dangers as firmly as possible, a strong social opposition from the Left will be necessary, from the local up to the national level. The PTB aims to work closely with trade unions and other social movements to take up this challenge, keeping true to its slogan of “People, not profit”