Who will lead the green party to Europe?

  • This Saturday, Ecolo party members will elect their candidate for the May 25 European elections.
  • Durant will withdraw if she’s not selected.
  • Five years later, the greens are having a rematch – the same issues and the same players.

The issue is first place on the Ecolo list for the May 25 European elections. The players are Isabelle Durant and Philippe Lamberts, both European elected officials since 2009 who disputed first place five years ago. Durant won, but the perennial party figure beat the nearly unknown Lamberts by only one vote.  It was a slap in the face.

Saturday afternoon in Mons, the greens will have a Durant-Lamberts rematch since, just like five years ago, they are the only ones to contest first place. Opinions vary as to whether it will be as close this time. Some point out that the 2009 Liège General Assembly election result was almost accidental, having only mobilized 300 activists. The extremely self-confident Durant did not campaign. Lambert, on the other hand, mobilized every possible activist.

They say that this time, everything should go ‘normally’ (sic).

This is not a unanimous conclusion. Some point out that in five years of parliamentary work  Lamberts, who was not very well known by the public, made a name for himself among activists. He did work hard over those five years, and this will come into play on Saturday. He also received a lot of credit for his credibility in the European debate.

It might not be easy to tell the difference between their expertise and energy, because they’re evenly matched. It’s their temperaments that will make the difference. Lambert is brilliant and combative. Where there’s a virtue, however, a defect often lurks. At times, Lambert comes off as rigid and arrogant. Durant, a little more polished, is also more agreeable. Again, this quality is also a fault. Militants could think that she does not possess the left-wing radicalism that the party desperately needs. Is this a referendum on fundamentalists vs. pragmatists? “There is some of that,” says one Ecolo member.

That being said, two issues will be significant on Saturday.

Durant had already warned her supporters, and she will repeat it on Saturday: if she does not get first place, she will not settle for second. “I am a first place candidate,” she tells us. “This is the position I will be defending on Saturday. There is no other. Some will say that I’m using blackmail. I’m not. I’m simply consistent.”

So, if she does not make it to the European list and declines second place, will she pull back into a different parliament? “No. Neither the chamber nor the regional parliament. Nothing.” Translation: If the General Assembly elects Lamberts to the top of the list, Durant will leave the scene.

This possibility, which could break some hearts, will undoubtedly not move those who think the party needs to be rejuvenated.

But there remains a much greater issue than that. In 2009 Durant, who was in first place, garnered 150,173 votes. Lambert, who had to be content with second place, only received 26,430. This suggests that with Lamberts, Ecolo may have to content itself with one seat, whereas with Durant it could gain two seats.

“Will we be the only party in the world who will put the candidate with the fewest votes at the top of its list?”

The answer will come on Saturday. 

PIERRE BOUILLON

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