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Aflevering 1-2, 1980 Alle samenvattingen uitklappen

    If a comparison is made between the constitutional principles of 1831 with regard to the working of the parliamentary system and presentday political practice, then it appears that there has been an evolution in which the role of the parties is fundamental. Until about 1850 virtually no party-system existed in Belgium. The monarchy supported by the conservative forces of the nobility, the church and the landowners controlled the system. In the second half of the century there was a simultaneous increase in the influence of parliament and the breakthrough of economic and political liberalism without the parties yet being able to impose the rules. Such rule making did not happen until around the turn of the century when the civil parliament became democratic and the big parties became integrated within it. From then on control over parliament and executive decision-taking came about through the party-structures. The period of crisis preceding the second world war obviously weakened this trend considerably; after 1945 it re-emerged even more strongly.

Els Witte

    In this article an analysis is made of the voting behaviour of Members of Parliament and political parties after the parliamentary debate on the investiture of a new cabinet. The voting behaviour does differ from the classical coalition-opposition voting pattern. Indeed the emerging general pattern shows that a majorityof the members of the coalition parties - but by no means all of them - approve the governments' declaration and that a majority of the members of the opposition rejects it. Deviant voting behaviour after this parliamentary debate is not a general phenomenon and mostly only some majority members vote contrary to their whip's instructions. This dissident stand is taken mainly when cabinets can rely on a broad parliamentary majority. This deviant voting seems to be positively correlated to the size of the coalition. The directly elected Members of Parliament most easily vote in an unorthodox manner. The individual Members of Parliament motivate their deviant vote referring to the opinion of their electorate.

Luk Holvoet

L'absentéisme parlementaire

Diagnostic et remèdes

Auteurs Françoise Drion

    Various causes are responsible for the important absenteeism which prevails in the public sessions and committees of the legislative assemblies: the various activities to be accomplished by Representatives andSenators outside Parliament (particularly obligations in their district and within the party) are more and more numerous and time-consuming. However, they cannot afford to neglect these since they favour the contacts indispensable for re-election. Additionally, absenteeism can be explained by the M.P.s' lack of interest for debates which they consider insignificant, either because these are too specialized, or because they concern matters largely aired by the media before being submitted to Parliament, or because they cover political choices already made. Within the parliamentary institution there are means to reduce this absenteeism. It would be appropriate to reduce drastically the number of public sessions of the Assemblies and to multiply the written proceedings. It is important to make use of the existing procedures such as permanent sections, as these are better adapted than the large assemblies to the requirements of contemporary parliamentarism. Finally, it is necessary that group leaders and commission presidents should be more vigilant to absenteeism in the commissions, because it impedes correct and functional parliamentary work and can in no manner be justified.

Françoise Drion

    The role of Parliament has been fundamentally changed by the following factors: 1° the growing technicality of society, 2° the growing influence of administration and the executive, 3° the new forms of democratic practice, 4° the management of political parties. In practice, the legislative function turns more and more into a control of the general objectives of the law rather than of the technical and juridical aspects. Besides, it is important to examine, from a constitutional point of view, the different forms of delegation. The control of both executive power and ombudsfunction remain the basic tasks of Parliament. The technical means, needed to perform these tasks, have therefore to be considerably improved. Beside the evolution of these two classical functions, it is vital to meet the growing power conflicts between government, parties, social partners and Parliament by creating new patterns of deliberation. To maintain the parliamentary system it is essential to carry through such constitutional reforms as will prevent arbitrary dissolution of Parliament.

Guido Verhaegen

Le rôle des commissions dans le travail parlementaire

Auteurs Marc-Antoine Pierson

Marc-Antoine Pierson

De fractieleider

Knelpunt of knooppunt in het parlementair gebeuren?

Auteurs Herman De Croo

    The author describes the recent changes of rules and proceedings in the House of Representatives, later on in the Senate and finally in both the new «cultural Assemblees», concerning the existence, the functioning and the importance of parliamentary groups and their leaders. Assimilated to the status of Vice-presidents of their Assembly, the parliamentary leaders are in charge of many responsabilities and more attention is given to the parliamentary group as such rather than to the individual members. Seating the members in the House, allocating to their «mandated» members speaking time in important debates, replacing members of their group in the specialized committees, preparing with the Speaker the public debates, taking full responsability for the material aid provided to their group and their members (secretarial help, technical assistance in the committee stage and money supply for research) the many tasks of the parliamentary leaders in the organization of parliamentary work are increasing. Their political functions are much more important. Usually the parliamentary leader sits in the top policy making organs of his party, very often he has had governmental experience and, as a floor leader, intervenes in the important debates. Even if essential differences can be observed between political parties (more freedom of action for the liberals and christian-democrats as a parliamentary group, less for the socialists and the communists) the leader in the Parliament plays an important role as the link between political parties and parliament.

Herman De Croo

L'espace idéologique au Parlement belge

Une approche comparative

Auteurs Guido Dierickx en André-Paul Frognier

    The management of conflicts in society is perhaps the main function of parliamentary systems. lts success, as estimated by the extent of problem-solving and by the limitation of conflict costs, has to be explainedby the mildness of the challenge to the system and/or by the strength of its response. Among the resources available to the system too little credit is given to the factional elements in political culture, especially to the ideology of the decision-makers. The most promising feature appears to be the differentiation of the ideological space in which political conflict-managers have to operate. The ideological space of the membership of parliament is «differentiated» when it is pluridimensional, when none of these ideological dimensions attains dominating salience, and when the most sensitive political issues are located on different dimensions. The data from a comparative research project show that the Italian parliament with its notoriously weak conflict-management record, fails the first and crucial test: its ideological space is strongly unidimensional. The Swiss parliamentary system with its excellent record passes all the tests. Belgium features a pluridimensional space which is impaired by the dominating salience of one of its dimensions. Other aspects of this space can only partially compensate this weakness. This might contribute to explain the mixed record of political conflict-management in our country.

Guido Dierickx

André-Paul Frognier

Het stemgedrag in het parlement

Onderzoek in de Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers voor de periode 1954-1965

Auteurs Etienne Langerwerf

    This article covers the voting behaviow- of the three major belgian parties: CVP (christian democrats), BSP (socialists) and PVV (liberals) during three legislatures (from 1954 to 1965) in which all three partieswere twice in government and once in the opposition. The cohesion between the government parties bas been very high. This is also the case within each party. Deviations from the so-called «partyline» are minimal, especially within the socialist party. Looking at the final votes, two voting patterns dominate: government versus opposition and unanimity. All amendments, except those introduced by the government, were rejected. The major conclusion is that the role of the public session of the House is reduced to a mere registration function.

Etienne Langerwerf

    The relative rate of success of parliamentary vs. governmental legislative initiative is quite different. The examination of one, resp. two full legislative term(s), for amendments, resp. bills introduced, shows thatparliamentary legislative initiative by far exceeds «regular» governmental initiative: in a ratio of 3 to 1 for bills, and of 4 to 1 for amendments. But the results (i.e. bills and amendments, accepted in both the House and the Senate) are almost inverse: governmental initiative accounts for 76 % of the bills, and for 67 % of the amendments eventually voted. The government succeeds in «pushing through» more than 90 % of its own initiatives, whereas parliamentary initiative hardly obtains an overall 10 % realization score. In an interrogative manner, the conclusion pointsto a few elements that may account for this situation.

Edi Clijsters

Willy Van Schoor

Vic Meeusen

    In the period 1950-1975 many proposals were introduced in the Belgian parliament by members of parliament as welt as by the cabinet, concerning the electoral system: proposals in relation to the electorate, concerning the eligibility, the electoral procedures, and the proportional system. Very few of these proposals came through: half of them starting from an initiative of a MP and half of them coming from the cabinet, mostly preceded by a parliamentary initiative. The amount of change introduced in the electoral system is, except for the lowering of the age of franchise and the reallotment of seats, small.

Louis Masureel

    In this article, we integrated the data of four inquiries, concerning various activities and features (clientelist activities, cumulation of extraparliamentary offices, various activities in parliament, non-attendance at committee meetings and plenary sessions, extent of personal electoral campaign, amount of preference votes, parliamentary seniority, etc.), computing the relations between all these quantitative variables by partialcorrelation and multiple regression techniques. Remarkably, the most determing factor of the amount of preference votes of a candidate seems to be his various activities in parliament. His clientelist activities and his personal electoral campaign influence also, but in a lesser way, the cast of these votes. Parliamentary seniority correlates positively with the number of cumulated offices, which in turncorrelates with the extent of his electoral campaign. The attendance of a representative during the committee meetings and during the plenary voting sessions seems not at all to be (negatively) influenced by this cumulations of various offices, and only slightly by bis clientelist occupations. This general pattern of parliamentary behavior differs considerably between parties. Finally, the effect of each particular branch ofextraparliamentary offices on the other activities of each member was examined.

Lieven De Winter

    The hypothesis to explain the often puzzling variability of political language in Parliament is that phenotypical elements of political speech such as emotionality, hostility, and oratorical style can be explained by structuralelements, that is by various aspects of the issues under debate. The data led us to criticize the more common cultural hypothesis, which would explain the variations of political language by linking it to the political culture of the members of parliament. As a result the evolutionof political language would be a global one, appearing in all policy domains. This was by no means the case. The evolution of political language between 1950 and 1970 is on the contrary a strongly differentiated one. The structural hypothesis performs much better both for the short- and for the medium-term variations. The expression of hostility during parliamentary debates can be explained satisfactorily by the stakes of the game. The expression of emotion seems to stem both from these stakes and from the level of aggregation of the issue. Finally, various aspects of oratorical style, such as the invocation of values, the principled motivation of proposals and the deductive logic used to legitimize the position taken, all seem to be derived from the level of aggregation and, most of the time, from the ideological contents of the issue as well. As a result we get a profile of political language which is rather tightly controlled by the opportunities and the necessities of the political agenda and much less by all kinds of extraneous factors.

Guido Dierickx

Marc Willems