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Belgium selects world’s second openly gay leader

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BRUSSELS — Belgium has become the second country in the world to select an openly gay leader.

Elio Di Rupo will lead a government, ending 540 days of post-election brinksmanship between the parties of the Dutch-speaking north and French south.

Elio Di Rupo

He will lead a coalition of six parties.

Belgium went through eight attempts to mediate the political stalemate since the elections turned a right-wing separatist party, which wants Belgium to gradually “evaporate”, into the dominant force in the northern region, Flanders.

Flanders is home to Europe’s second-largest port and companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI), the world’s largest brewer. It is considerably wealthier than the south, which suffers from post-industrial malaise.

Di Rupo is the son of Italian immigrants and has risen from poverty. He is known for wearing big red bow ties.

At the age of one, he lost his father in a car crash. Struggling to raise seven children, his illiterate mother gave some of them up to a nearby orphanage.

In 1996 he was falsely accused of having sex with under age boys, something which drive him to consider suicide if he had not been totally vindicated.

He told his biographer about being pursued down the street at the time by journalists yelling “they say you’re a homosexual!”

“I turned around and shot back: ‘Yes. So what?’ I will never forget that moment… For several seconds there was silence… People were so surprised by my reply they stopped jostling each other. It was a sincere, truthful reply.”

Three years later he was leading the Socialist Party and soon after became the leader of the southern Wallonia region.

Former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told the BBC:

“Being the chief minister of a regional government is just a pastime compared with the hellish job of being prime minister of two different communities brought together.”

“You have to have very strong personal skills to bridge all rivalries. Di Rupo surely has the skills to be in command, otherwise he would not have succeeded in the most difficult negotiation ever.

“But much will depend on his empathy for Flemish public opinion, which is extremely volatile.”

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir has been the openly lesbian leader of Iceland since 2009.

In Italy the chief left-wing challenger for the Italian leadership is the self-described “gay, Catholic, communist” Nikki Vendola.

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Filed under: Europe

13 more reader comments:

  1. Did he have to go with the stereotypical bow tie? LOL Kudos to him, by the way.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:33pm
  2. Yay!!! :))))

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:33pm
  3. When Matt Smith says Bow Ties are cool, I believe him… Untill I see this picture. Well the bow tie is cool, but not with that hairstyle O.0

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:37pm
  4. Huzzah!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:45pm
  5. Cool, but he looks like a regular singer on Euro Trash Xxx

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 6:08pm
  6. Why should his sexual orientation have anything to do with his politics?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 6:18pm
  7. I’m from Belgium and I can assure you that no one really cares about his sexual orientation. He is out of the closet since 1996. Most LGBT-people are proud of the fact that an openly gay leader can be prime minister in our country, but we’re more actually more concerned with the stability of our political system and the economy. Most people are actually more concerned about his knowledge of the Dutch language.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 7:30pm
  8. It is ofcourse extremely funny that Di Rupo represents everything the extreme right in Belgium despises: a son of immigrants, a social democrat and a homosexual. (Btw, his fashion style has always been excentric.)

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 7:37pm
  9. and Belgium is still light years ahead of the US in terms of equality :)

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:17pm
  10. This had been a good week for worldwide politics. =)

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 9:20pm
  11. the world neds to take belgium as a rolemodel

    Posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 11:14pm
  12. woot!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 3:28am
  13. why does everyone keep banging on about the fact that he’s gay? I don’t think his sexuality got him the job.. it’s such a non-issue. As long as he can fix the mess that is Belgium’s politics.. who cares that he’s gay or straight or bi or whatever else? He could have 3 wives and 4 husbands and 27 kids for all I care..

    Posted on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 6:48am