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Peter Mertens to step down as leader of hard-left PVDA

After 13 years at its helm, Peter Mertens is to step down as leader of far-left party PVDA at the end of the year. It had been expected that he would stand for another term as leader of the party. However, Mr Mertens told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that “It’s now time for the ship to have a new captain”. 

Since Peter Mertens became its leader in 2008 PVDA has grown to become a party that has 400 branches across Belgium (in Francophone Belgium it is known as PTB) and 24,000 members nationwide. Currently the party has 43 MPs, 12 of which in the Federal Parliament and 4 in the Flemish Parliament.

Given that 13 years ago the party wasn’t much more that a (highly visible) action group with just a handful of local councillors, Mr Mertens' period as leader has been a success. Although Peter Mertens will be stepping down as leader of PDVA he will remain active both as a grassroots militant and as a Federal MP.

"It’s time that a new captain takes over at the helm. But my commitment will continue”.  

He added that day-to-day politics “is very intense” and that he sometimes becomes tried of it. “The daily tweet, the fad of the day, everyone is involved in politics, you know you lose an awful lot of time with all that. It’s a good thing that some people step back from it to work on the strategic side of things”.

Stepping back as party leader will give Mr Mertens more time to write. He has already written several books including “Hoe durven ze” (How dare they) that made it into the top 10 non-fiction best-sellers in 2011. “I am proud of that book because it help put our party on the map”. 

Low point

A low point in Peter Mertens’ career came in 2014 when against all expectations he failed to be elected a MP for the Antwerp provincial constituency. ‘It was a shock, also because you receive criticism that a truly left-wing party won’t work in Flanders. But we showed that this wasn’t true in 2019”.

On the closing day of PVDA’s 5-yearly statutory congress a new party leader will be chose. Mr Mertens is remaining tight-lipped about who he believes is favourite to succeed him. 

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