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Belgian Politics in 2006

Tijdschrift Res Publica, Aflevering 2-3 2007
Auteurs Sam Depauw en Mark Deweerdt

Sam Depauw
Postdoctoral Fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders at the KU Leuven.

Mark Deweerdt
MA in Political Science.

    This article is based on a definition of political and civil servant leadership as a behavioral steering style towards the realization of organizational goals. By means of a grounded theory methodology we get some insights in the characteristics and the interaction between both leadership styles in Flemish cities. This two-faced leadership is depicted by means of a tandem metaphor. First, we identify the relevant dimensions to describe the leadership tandem. It becomes apparent that political leadership styles differ greatly both in time and in scope. Civil servant leadership is generally characterized by a weak but presumably growing impact. This combination results in considerable leadership tensions, which is reinforced by several contingency factors: i.e. the influence of the dominant alderman model, the financial situation, the number of staff, the tendency to professionalize, the dominant political and civil servant culture and the structure of central government (e.g. on a Flemish, Belgian and European level).

Nathalie Vallet
Docent aan het Departement Management van de Universiteit Antwerpen en aan de Master in Publiek Management van de Universiteit Antwerpen Management School (UAMS).

Filip De Rynck
Hoogleraar aan het Departement Handelswetenschappen en Bestuurskunde van de Hogeschool Gent en docent aan de Master in Publiek Management van de Universiteit Antwerpen Management School (UAMS).

Tussen buurt en stadsregio

Anderhalf jaar stedelijk beleid in Vlaanderen

Tijdschrift Res Publica, Aflevering 1 1997
Auteurs Leo Peeters

    Since several elections since 1991 were won by an extreme right political party, especially in the Flanders and in the city of Antwerp, polities has responded with an increase in attention for environmental and social policies. In a first reaction - and after a longstand period of budget cuts - more money was invested in the building ofsocial housing. Later this policy was broadened to a more comprehensive policy for the cities, trying to integrate the brick-and-mortar approaches with welfare policies. In this contribution three things are put into perspective. The first deals with the rise of the urban problems. A second part deals with the new policies who are implemented today. These are territorially targeted at poor neighbourhoods. In a final part these policies are situated in a regional context since the liveability of the central cities can not be seen without its regional context, since very often the more wealthy people are living outside the administrative boundaries while the vulnerable social groups are living in the older inner city neighbourhoods.

Leo Peeters

De keuze tussen groen en extreem rechts in Vlaanderen

Sporen van een nieuwe breuklijn

Tijdschrift Res Publica, Aflevering 2 1995
Auteurs Jaak Billiet en Marc Swyngedouw

    Studies about the Flemish voter's perceptions and attitudes revealed that the ecologist (green) party "Agalev" and the radical right-wingparty "Vlaams Blok" were each other's antipodes. These two parties were perceived by the voters as extreme poles on dimensions that were mainly formed by the parties' (perceived) viewpoint about the rights of immigrants, about Flemish political autonomy, and about materialistic versus postmaterialistic policy alternatives. According to the voters' attitudes, the two electorates were polarized by their attitudes towards immigrants, (post)materialism, economic conservatism, and Flemish nationalism. The electorates of these two 'extreme' parties were very similar in age composition (more in youngest generations), urban/rural environment (more living in large urban agglomerations), and church involvement(more non-Catholics). The voters of the ecologist party were more likely to have finished higher education and to have a high occupational status. Blue collar workers with little educational formation were over-represented among the electorate of the right-wing party. Using the data collected among 2,691 Flemisch voters after the 1991 General Elections, this study analyses relevant attitudes and socio-demographic characteristics within one global logistic-regression model. The focus is on the Vlaams Blok versus Agalev with the other electorates as reference category. Controlled for social characteristics, four attitudinal variables still show significant (and opposite) net effects on the likelihood of votingfor Agalev or for the Vlaams Blok and not for the other parties: the attitude towards immigrants, Belgian/Flemish nationalism, (post)materialism, and readiness to make efforts for the preservation of the physical environment. This findings support Swyngedouw's thesis about the emergence of two new cleavages: the so called universalistic/particularistic and postmaterialistic/materialistic cleavages that are capable tocatch about 20% of the Belgian-Flemish voters in the early 90s.

Jaak Billiet

Marc Swyngedouw

    During the amalgamation period, important changes occurred in landuse planning primarily under the impetus of regional formation. The position of the municipalities has not been strengthened. In the historical monument policy, the gap between the national and the municipal level is particularly large. This is also the case for housing policy, but the gap is generally not felt to be encumbering by the municipal authorities. After the amalgamation and the «politisation» of the municipal council parties, most of the municipal administrators have, in a very pragmatic way, received a direct line to the national land-use planning via party clientism. This appears to be much more efficient than the formal procedures of the urban construction law, the historica monument law, and other provisions. However, this does have the consequence that the people of the amalgamated municipalities feel little involvement in the land-usepolicy. Some municipalities have tried to break through on this by the launching of a structure plan. The political orientations of the designers and other land-use planning experts and the sometimes anti-political attitude of large groups of the population are not alien to the aforementioned pragmatism. All this, however, complicates the impact on land-use organisation by the local communities, which are still administratively powerful after the amalgamation.

Evert Lagrou

    The amalgamation in the small urban centre, for which Bree is chosen as an example, may be considered to have been a success partially because a number of general principles with respect to the amalgamation operation were respected. The socio-cultural differences existing between the submunicipalities could be bridged, which was not the case with other amalgamations. The municipal policy rests to a large extent on the concept of decentralisation and the participation of the citizen. Decentralisation was made concrete both with regard to the provision of services and with regard to the investments in the various centres. The participation of the citizen was implemented by hearings held systematically in the residential areas. The amount of personnel was reduced slightly in spite of the increased municipal tasks. This reduction was made possible by greater efficiency in the use of personnel and by better equipment. Financially, the municipality is having no difficulties, the budget is balanced, and theaccounts show a surplus.

Jaak Gabriëls

    Now being one of the 10 most important urban centres, Leuven (Louvain) provides a good case to study the determinant elements that have inspired the policy of mergers of communes in Belgium in 1975. Technocracy, consultation of the municipal councils concerned, preferences of the population, the opposition in parliament have all had very little or no influence at all on the eventual decision-making.On the contrary, specific pressure groups, supervision authorities, the extent to which one tried to anticipate the 1976 local elections, and the power position of the majority parties have substantially infiuenced the merger map. Thus, these decision-making elements contain a considerable distortion - in terms of actual realization - of the official ideology behind the mergers, i.e. to make the municipal executive power more efficient.

Wilfried Dewachter

    It is a striking point that, in the general context of the municipal administration's reform, this administration itself is never brought into discredit. When criticisms are formulated, they concern the fact that not all municipalities are able to offer their inhabitants the services which they normally may expect, as well for their immediate human development as for the adapted extension of the material infrastructure and of their vital environment. This normally raises the question of the municipalities' administrative power.The factors which determine that power can be considered in direct or indirect connection with the number of inhabitants.In the first place, the population has to be sufficiently differentiated to enable the conception of a development-policy that comes up to the requirements of the present society. One may assume that in municipalities with 2.000 inhabitants, which perform a centre-function or are located near a town-centre, the possibility exists to elect a properly composed common council. For rural municipalities the numberof inhabitants must undoubtedly be higher. Moreover, the municipality should have the disposal of specialised personnel to help the municipal authorities with the conception and practice of their policy. InBelgium a municipal secretary cannot do bis work properly if the municipality does not count 2.500 to 3.000 inhabitants.In the second place, administrative power is determined by available finances. Calculations have been made per category of municipalities, based on disposable data concerning 196.5 and 1966.As far as the extraordinary accounts are concerned, which essentially refer to investment expenses, it is relevant to note that the average figures per inhabitant are equally high in municipalities with less than1.000 and with 10.000 inhabitants. But, taking into account the cost of planned infrastructure-works, it is a fact that only from 10.000 inhabitants on a municipality has the disposal of sufficient finances to performa development-policy.The figures concerning ordinary accounts, which refer to operation- and administrative costs, show that a municipality with less than 1.000 inhabitants - although offering less services - has to spend more perinhabitant than a municipality with 5.000 to 10.000 inhabitants. Its fiscal charge is also higher than that of a municipality belonging to the latter category.The figures clearly show the disadvantage of smaller municipalities.In that context one should not forget that practically 63 to 70 % of ordinary expenses concern the actual operations and municipal debts. Seen in proportional relations, small municipalities have but little means to take care of policy-tasks.To be complete «municipality with administrative power» also means «municipality with a democratic function». As a matter of fact, administrative power is not exclusively determined by sufficient financialresources or by a minimum of differentiation of the inhabitants. Generally speaking one can assume in this context that the geographical size of the territory does not normally hamper the functioning of alocal democracy. More attention however should be given to the question if that functioning is not rather hindered by the number of inhabitants, when a certain population-maximum is exceeded. It appearsindeed that local authorities have less appeal in urbanised municipalities or as soon as a population-number of 20.000 to 30.000 inhabitants is reached. For that reason, attempts should be made in bigger municipalities to stimulate the population's participation in policy-matters.Activities with a definitively technical character, need a wider approach. So it seems more advisable to work on the basis of regions, rather than on the basis of large municipalities.Taking into account the big number of small municipalities, one can state as a conclusion that the municipal elections miss a great part of their signification in the majority of Belgian municipalities. Practically two thirds of them have no possibility to perform an adapted policy.Changing the constitution of those who are responsible for that policy cannot give much of a result as there are no material means to realize a modern policy with administrative power.

Rudolf Maes

Verschuivingen in de partijkeuze

Een vergelijking van de uitslagen van de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen 1964 en de parlementaire verkiezingen 1965

Tijdschrift Res Publica, Aflevering 3 1970
Auteurs Gerrit Van De Put

    It often appears that leading politicians in Belgium consider the results of the municipal elections in the light of national polities. They stick to the thesis that the municipal poll-results, at least in the bigger towns, are more and more influenced by the constellation of the nation's politics.Is it really so that the municipal elections indicate the hearings of the national political situation? Can one draw conclusions from the results of these elections as if they were national ones? And can one,any how, compare municipal to parliamentary elections? By comparison of the results of municipal elections 1964 and of parliamentary elections 1965 it was checked which shifts in party-choice havehappened during this short period of eight months. If no oscillations, or only a few, were detected between both elections, one could conclude that the municipal elections 1964 indicated indeed the hearings of the parliamentary elections 1965.Successively, the national and provincial results of these elections were compared and the party-shifts on national and provincial level were calculated.To make a relevant comparison between the election-results on a lower level, a comparable basic unity had to be found. As there were no municipal data available at parliamentary elections on one side, andonly municipal results at the municipal elections on the other side, the least possible unity for which parliamentary election-results are known, the electoral canton namely, was chosen as a comparison-basis. For that purpose however the results per party had to be additioned in all municipalities belonging to one canton.Part of the electoral cantons was unfit for use as comparison-material for two reasons: the highly varied and often strongly local-coloured political party-structure on one hand, the big number of municipalitieswithout elections on the other hand. So we were bound to make a choice out of 212 electoral cantons. Finally the cantons with a maximum of 4 municipalities were chosen, which limited the number of cantons to 28. These cantons were classified by degree of urbanisation according to the typology of W. Van Waelvelde and H. Van der Haegen.In that classification the percentages of votes in favour of the political parties, at the occasion of these elections, were tabulated and compared.The participating parties and lists were grouped as much as possible around the traditional parties to which they were most related. So we distinguish in Flanders: CVP, BSP, PVV, VU, CPB and other parties ;in the Walloon region: PSC, PSB, PLP PCB, French-speaking lists and other parties.For this analysis we also thought it was relevant to control separately the shifts of the electoral corps in the Flemish, the Walloon and the Brussels cantons. These shifts were then specified according to thedegree of urbanisation.To measure the size of the party-shifts for these elections, the external election-shift standard was calculated for the chosen Flemish, Walloon and Brussels cantons, with a special attention for the degree of urbanisation. Finally we examined which attitude was assumed by the government, the governmental and the opposition parties, in relation to the results of the municipal 1964 elections.It appeared that some notable party-shifts had been realized during the short period between the municipal elections of 1964 and the legislative elections of 1965. In general, a certain polarization has taken place due to a centrifugal vote-shift to the left and still more to the right. The direction of vote-shifts, which had shown at the municipal elections of 1964, was affirmed at the legislative elections of 1965 and for some parties, CVP and PVV namely, it was even accentuated. The parallelism between both elections in relation to the direction of the vote-shifts did not mean however that the size of these shifts was the same everywhere. The image of the shifts was different according to linguistic region and degree of urbanisation.The analysis of the urbanisation-degree showed that the level of oscillations grew higher as the urbanisation-degree grew lower. Seen per linguistic region, the largest shifts had taken place in the Walloon cantons. According to the calculations of the electoral shift standards during the period 1964-1965, the lowest oscillations were noted in the Flemish and Brussels cantons, i.e. the voting-behaviour of the big agglomerations during the municipal elections of 1964 were the closest to the national electoral pattern. Seen that way they were, up to a certain degree, a value-measure for the general policy.Finally the remark should be made that the limitation to the two above-mentioned elections does not allow any generalization of the obtained conclusions. The short period between those elections was itself an exceptional situation which may have been of influence on the results of the comparisons.

Gerrit Van De Put
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