Egbert Lachaert will take over as president of the Flemish liberal party Open VLD

The Flemish liberals of Open VLD have chosen a new party leader to replace Gwendolyn Rutten: Egbert Lachaert beat Ostend Mayor Bart Tommelein with a bigger margin than expected. In a first reaction, he said he wants to reach out to all Flemish citizens, and not just the VLD's traditional voters. 

Some 16,000 party members cast their vote in the past days. Lachaert fetched 61 percent of the votes, his main challenger Bart Tommelein only 29 percent. The victory was clear enough to avoid a second round. 

42-year-old Lachaert, a lawyer from Merelbeke (near Ghent), lost to Gwendolyn Rutten in 2012 but made it this time, after Rutten had announced her farewell.  Mr Lachaert belongs to the 'right wing' of the party, although he doesn't like that label. 

Lachaert says he wants to bring a clearer message about what his party stands for. He also wants to broaden the horizon, in an attempt to attract voters from outside the traditional liberal circle. "But the social-economic story should be ours, we should not let this be taken by other parties." 

Where the formation of a new  federal government is concerned, Mr Lachaert says he wants a givernment with both social and liberal accents. He also said his party would get a new name, but that will be something for later on.