Postcard from... Brussels


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The Independent Online


It is just a fleeting glimpse of a toned back as a man changes his shirt on a hot summer’s day. But given that it’s election year in politically charged Belgium and the back belongs to Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, it is little surprise that the picture provoked a minor media storm.

“I’m ashamed for Belgium,” tweeted Alain Destexhe, a politician of the liberal Reformist Movement, after the documentary still became public last week. Journalist Emmanuelle Praet told a panel debate that the flash of flesh was the “epitome of indecency”.

Slightly bemused by it all was the PM’s spokesperson, who told Belgian media that Mr Di Rupo, 62, was caught on camera for just three seconds switching shirts on King Philippe’s sweltering coronation day last July. Eric Goens, the documentary’s producer, accused Mr Destexhe of being puritanical.

For many, it again highlighted a divide between the more conservative French-speaking south –where most of the outrage originated – and the Flemish-speaking north. It is this divide that Mr Di Rupo will have on his mind in the run-up to elections. His Socialist Party came second to the Flemish nationalist N-VA in 2010; it was only after 541 days with no government that a coalition was scraped together with Mr Di Rupo at the helm. Polls suggest a similar result this year.