The two right hands (of the parliamentary group leader)

By Pascal SteinwachsMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Little is known about the activities and responsibilities of parliamentary group secretaries. Yet they are about as indispensable to the work of a political party as, well ... a steersman is to navigation. We went to see for ourselves.

In addition to the members of the government, the focus of political interest is usually at most on the party and parliamentary group leaders, but sometimes also on the ordinary MPs, if they are giving a speech on a somehow important legislative project in parliament, holding a halfway interesting press conference or otherwise making a name for themselves.

A mixture of first officer and helmsman

No one is interested in the staff in the second row. Yet in the political parties it is precisely they who make sure that everything works in the background and that all the cogs mesh together. A special role is played by the parliamentary group secretaries, who at best keep things running smoothly and at the same time cover their respective bosses’ backs, i.e. the parliamentary group presidents. If one were to compare the parliamentary group chairperson with a captain or a commander, then the parliamentary group secretary would in this case be a mixture of first officer and helmsman.

In the next few weeks we will visit the parliamentary group secretaries of the four big parties, i.e. those parties that have enough MPs to form a parliamentary group in parliament on ʺKrautmarktʺ (short for the Rue du Marché-aux-Herbes street), which means at least five. The first is the LSAP, whose parliamentary group secretary Marc Vanacker has only been in office since the beginning of this year, but who, as a former journalist, can already draw on a certain amount of political experience.

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