Pol Van Den Driessche, the Flemish nationalists’ choice as the next Mayor of Bruges, is pulling out of the race after a spate of allegations of sexual harassment of women surfaced in recent days. Mr Van Den Driessche has announced he will no longer seek any active role in politics.
The Flemish nationalist headed the N-VA’s list of candidates in next October’s local elections in Bruges.
Last week one of the women who worked under him when he served as editor of the Christian democrat daily Het Nieuwsblad filed a complaint about sexual harassment with the judicial authorities.
The Flemish nationalist also offers his sincere apologies to the women who experienced behaviour that they thought crossed the line of decency: “I never experienced it in that way. If I have seemed too forward, I never intended it in that way.”
Mr Van Den Driessche says that he was hurt by the comparison made by the weekly Humo that likened him to France’s Dominique Strauss-Khan, who has also been at the centre of sexual harassment allegations: “My response is motivated by the fact that I am compared to a man who is suspected of rape and involvement in prostitution rings.”
In last week’s edition of the weekly Humo several women spoke of unsolicited familiarity and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Several women also gave their account on VRT TV. Mr Van Den Driessche also served as senator for the Flemish Christian democrat party for a while. The party’s leader Wouter Beke has said that he was no longer welcome in the party because of the stories that were doing the rounds.
On Sunday several female former colleagues jumped to Mr Van Den Driessche’s defence writing in an open letter that they were never sexual intimidated by him.