Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Elio Di Rupo, Belgian Politician, PM in waiting?

b. 18 July 1951

As leader of Belgium's Socialist Party, which emerged from the general election in June last year as the largest of the Francophone parties and the second-largest party overall, there was early speculation that Di Rupo might conceivably become the next Prime Minister, and with it the world's first openly gay male head of government (there is already a lesbian PM, in Iceland). This was not a foregone conclusion: there were some mutterings as to his suitability - but the interesting thing is that these had nothing to do with his sexuality, and in any case seem to have been pushed aside. His current Wikipedia entry does not even refer to his sexuality, although he is known to be openly gay. As the designated "formateur" entrusted with heading the complex negotiations over forming the next government, Di Rupo is, in effect, Belgium's next Prime Minister - and is widely described in press reports as Belgium's "Prime Minister in waiting".

Following the 2010 Belgian general election, in which the PS emerged as the largest of the Francophone parties and the second largest political party in Belgium, speculation emerged as to whether Di Rupo could be the Prime Minister in a new government. The RTBF raised questions, however, about whether Di Rupo's limited fluency in Dutch would be a stumbling block in seeking that office, since this was one of the reasons why a francophone has not held the prime minister's post since 1979. In May 2011, he was appointed Formateur by the Belgian king, which gave Di Rupo the task of forming a government. Traditionally, the Formateur will also become the Prime Minister of the government he formed
Di Rupo has been openly gay for years, and has publicly acknowledged patronising young male prostitutes. At the height of the Belgian public horror at the pedophile Marc Dutroux, and the disclosure of his abuse and murder of young girls, this appeared briefly to provoke a conservative backlash against the gay male community, but has never seriously damaged Di Rupo's political career. He has already served as "burgomaster" (mayor) of Mons, as regional Minister-President of the Walloon Region, and as national deputy prime minister.

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