Born in Belgium being one year old when his father died and his mother had to raise seven children, he surely must have seen enough problems a family can encounter to be able to survive.
In the interview with Telefacts yesterday on the Flemish commercial television channel VTM Elio Di Rupo (b. 18 July 1951 in Morlanwelz) proudly showed the suitcase which was the only filled asset his father brought to Belgium when he left San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore in the region of Abruzzo to come to work in the mines in Wallonia. In the program we were shown a man of flesh and blood. It was not a bad program, but much to short and not telling us much more about the man who crossed a Rubicon.
We could see his family home in Italy and an uncle but did not get to know how Di Rupo got where he is today.
On the day of his eldest brother’s wedding, when Elio was one, his father was killed by a truck while cycling to a nearby farm. “Since my father did not die in the mines, we did not get a miner’s pension, just a ‘survivor’s pension’, which would be €7.5 a month in today’s money.
He had a difficult childhood. His mother made it through because three of his brothers started working, two of them in the mines. Di Rupo saw his mother as a reference point for love and affection, whose sheer will got the family through even though she couldn’t
read or write.His mother did not want him to go in politics. She wanted another live for her son. She took care that he could go to school and continued studying.
Because his motherwas not so able to help him with his school work she found it better to place him at a boarding school of the atheneum or high school. One insured her that that was for him the best solution. When young Di Rupo arrived at the boarding school, two weeks after the beginning of the school year, it appeared there not to be no more place by the children of his age. Therefore he had to install him in the dormitory of the older boys. It was for him best well shocking to be around in that gang of the age of seventeen and eighteen. Considering the difference between this twelve year old boy and adolescents. Having problems with serious headache, the doctor thinking it to be sinusitis let him have tents in his nose. That first year the youngster felt so badly that he almost never was on the schoolbenches . The next year it went not much better. The consequence was that he had to do the first year of the secondary school three times.
One day his science teacher called Di Rupo to confront him with a conversation which lasted scarcely a minute, but influenced his whole further life. ‘You can can do it well. You must work!’ was the solution offered to him.
It was the first time that Di Rupo found himself treated by an adult as an equal. “My mother, my brothers and my sister were there also, but that was not the same. It was a real shock for me and at the same time an unbelievable feeling. From the moment that I realized that an adult had trust in me, I asked myself how I could take care that I would not disillusion that person. Because he had advised me to work, I did that also. I was seventeen and I had gone up for a two year delay. ”
Di Rupo got the taste of the studying and became a good student. “Chemistry, that mixes of theoretical and practical dimensions, was a passion become for me. ” He was allowed to do some projects and have a period which he liked very much.
When he came the end of his secondary studies there was the question what would happen then. “We were with three of us; Jean-Pierre, Michel and I eager to continue to study in the same direction. The teachers insured us that we all three could study at an university.”
the start at the univeristy did not go well, but he found his chemistry teacher Franz Aubry in Carnière to help him out.
He studied chemistry at the University of Mons-Hainaut, where he also earned his PhD in physio-chemistry, or neo-ceramics, and got a scholarship for Leeds University. In 1978, he promoted to doctor in the sciences and obtained the title with big distinction.
Embarking on adult life, Mr Di Rupo left behind his Catholic upbringing, and described himself in the 2008 interview as an “atheist, rationalist and free mason”.
At Mons he became a student leader, was elected student president, joined the university’s administrative council, and from then on moved into local politics. The evening of his thesis apology, he for the first time went to a federal conference of the socialist party.
He got a position in Mons city council and later became elected MP in the Chamber
of Representatives in 1987, MEP in 1989, senator in 1991, Education Minister in 1992, Deputy Prime Minister for five years from 1994, PS leader since 1999, Wallonia
Minister-President (1999–2000 and 2005-07), and mayor of Mons since 2001.
When I saw him at work a few times in Mons and at the celebrities of the Doudou he showed to have stayed a man of the people. I think it was two years ago (or already three) when there happened an accident at the show in the football stadium, he also went to the hospital to visit the wounded gymnast and came back to tell the public how it was with the man. His action over-there was not a political one but a sincere human action.
On several occasions we also could see that he could really listen and respect the other persons even when they did not agree with his thinking. For me he also gives me the impression that he knows his dossiers very well and always has given good remarks.
To me it looks a man with his heart on the right place. Though I got a little bit disappointed that he was not vigorous at the debates to come forward with a interminable government coalition. It was a pity he could not receive more respect from the younger politicians who seemed to fool him on several occasions. But to know more about the troubles and how Di Rupo tried to get through this most difficult period of the Belgian History, we shall have to wait a few years and read the biographies then.
Van de Woestyne, speaking to BBC News, says that 35 years in politics have demonstrated Mr Di Rupo’s “patience, charisma and good leadership qualities”.
“He takes a lot of time to listen to everyone and thus has many strategies for finding compromises, and he has good contacts across the political spectrum.”
Find Di rupo’s blog: Le blog d’Elio
Telefacts: Di Rupo openhartig
Elio Di Rupo , de nieuwe premier van België, straalt. Hij is moe, maar zichtbaar opgelucht dat het is gelukt, 541 dagen na de laatste verkiezingen. Aan Telefacts geeft hij zijn eerste Vlaamse televisie-interview, 1 dag voor de eedaflegging, in het Nederlands: “Ik begrijp het, het is waar, ik moet mijn Nederlands verbeteren en ik wil mijn Nederlands verbeteren. Ik zal er hard aan werken. Een premier is een premier van alle Belgen en alle Vlamingen. Zoals u weet heb ik veel respect voor de Vlamingen”.
- Profile: Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo(bbc.co.uk)
On one level, this son of Italian immigrants is living the Belgian dream, rising from poverty to play a crucial, unifying role in his country’s political future.
On another, he is very definitely a Walloon, as Belgium’s French-speakers are known, who struggles to speak Dutch but is passionate in his determination to unite Walloons and Flemings alike.
- Belgium to Swear in EU’s First Openly Gay Prime Minister, Elio di Rupo (towleroad.com)
Di Rupo, the first Francophone premier in 32 years for the divided nation, will take office as a new Socialist leader among a group of European governments dominated by the center-right.
- Belgian government finally sworn in (news.smh.com.au)
- Meet Elio Di Rupo: The Unlikely Man With The Crazy History Now In Charge Of Belgium (businessinsider.com)
Opinion on Di Rupo varies, some saying that he’ll be lucky to last until the next general elections and others saying that he may be the man to steady the ship. Whether he can unify a country and command a coalition full of different opinions and cultures is anyone’s guess.
- Di Rupo Is Set to Take Office in Belgium (online.wsj.com)
Mr. Di Rupo, 60 years old, is head of the French-speaking Socialist Party of Belgium and mayor of the southern city of Mons.He mediated an agreement among six parties for a coalition government and major state overhauls as Europe’s debt crisis appeared to be drawing in Belgium, resolving a deadlock that had lasted since elections in June 2010.
- Belgian King Names New Government (myfoxphoenix.com)
A palace statement said, “The King this evening received Elio Di Rupo at Belvedere castle and named him prime minister.”The sovereign, on the new premier’s suggestion, approved a slimmed-down cabinet line-up of 12 ministers and six secretaries of state to take over from a caretaker government headed by Yves Leterme.
- After 18 months, Belgium has a government again – CBS News(cbsnews.com)
Elio Di Rupo, left, shakes hands during a swearing-in ceremony with Belgian King Albert II, right, as he takes the oath as the first French-speaking Belgian prime minister in nearly 40 years, after formally ending the record 541 days the country has gone without a government, at the Royal Palace in laeken, near Brussels, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011. (AP Photo)
In a ceremony at the ornate royal palace, the son of Italian immigrants completed a remarkable personal journey that took him from an impoverished childhood in Belgium’s rustbelt south to become the leader of Belgium.Amid small talk and jokes with King Albert II, the 13 ministers and 6 state secretaries took the oath, much to the relief of the nation of 6.5 million Dutch speakers and 4.5 million French speakers frustrated with lawmakers’ inability to form a government over linguistic differences.
- Gay, socialist and born in a squatters’ camp – meet the new PM of Belgium (independent.co.uk)
A brilliant student, Mr Di Rupo became a doctor of chemistry before switching to politics in 1982. Although initially mocked as the “little macaroni”, he become mayor of Mons, on the Belgian-French border, a Euro MP, national education minister and vice prime minister of the Walloon region.Since 1999 he has led the powerful Francophone Socialist party, one of the Europe’s most unreconstructed.In 1996, as Belgium was torn apart by the Dutroux paedophilia scandal, Mr Di Rupo faced down wrongfulclaims that he had had sex with an underage boy. In doing so, he openly declared his sexuality for the first time.
In the recent biography, he remembered being pursued down a street by a pack of journalists. He told how one had shouted: “They say you’re a homosexual!” He recalled: “I turned around and replied, Yes, so what?’ I will never forget that moment. [The journalists] were so surprised by my reply that they stopped pushing one other.”
- New Belgian Premier: who is Elio Di Rupo?(Flanders News.be)The young politician serves in the European Parliament and the Senate before landing his first ministerial job as Education Minister in the Francophone Community Government. When in the eighties his PS party is embroiled in scandal he is asked to join the Federal Government as Transport Minister. A year later he is made Economy Minister.In 1996 following the scandal of the Belgian child sex killings he is accused of having sex with a minor. The allegations are trumped up but Mr Di Rupo’s homosexuality is no longer a secret.
Following the 1999 election Mr Di Rupo becomes the new Walloon Prime Minister, but a year later he is elected PS party leader and comes home to Mons as burgomaster.
- Belgium government finally sworn in after 541-day vacuum (expatica.com)
Belgium finally swore in a prime minister and cabinet on Tuesday after a record-breaking 541 days without a government but they face an uphill battle to tackle problems at the root of the deadlock.