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Article

The Impact of VAAs on Vote Switching at the 2019 Belgian Legislative Elections: More Switchers, but Making Their Own Choices

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering Online FIrst 2021
Trefwoorden voting advice applications, vote switching, vote choice, elections and electoral behaviour, voters/citizens in Belgium, VAA
Auteurs David Talukder, Laura Uyttendaele, Isaïa Jennart e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    During electoral campaigns, the use of voting advice applications (VAAs) has become increasingly widespread. Consequently, scholars have examined both the patterns of usage and their effects on voting behaviour. However, existing studies lead to conflicting findings. In this article, we take a closer look at the effect of De Stemtest/Test électoral (a VAA developed by academics from the University of Louvain and the University of Antwerp, in partnership with Belgian media partners) on vote switching. More specifically, we divide this latter question into two sub-questions: (1) What is the impact of a (dis)confirming advice from the VAA on vote switching? (2) Do VAA users follow the voting advice provided by the VAA? Our study shows that receiving a disconfirming advice from the VAA increases the probability of users to switch their vote choice.


David Talukder
David Talukder is a PhD candidate at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium). He works within the research project “Reforming Representative Democracy”. His main research interests are democratic innovations, political representation, and democratic reforms.

Laura Uyttendaele
Laura Uyttendaele is a PhD candidate at the University of Louvain (UC Louvain, Belgium). Her main research interests are Voting Advice Applications, Youth & politics, political attitudes and behaviours, and experimental methods.

Isaïa Jennart
Isaïa Jennart is a PhD candidate (Universiteit Antwerpen & VUB, Belgium) interested in public opinion, electoral campaigns, voting behaviour, Voting Advice Applications and political knowledge. He mainly studies citizens’ knowledge of parties’ issue positions.

Benoît Rihoux
Benoît Rihoux is full professor in political science at the University of Louvain (UC Louvain, Belgium). His research covers comparative methods (especially QCA) as well as diverse topics in comparative politics, political organizations and political behaviour.
Article

Access_open Voters of Populist Parties and Support for Reforms of Representative Democracy in Belgium

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2020
Trefwoorden Belgian politics, democratic reforms, elections, populist voters, representative democracy
Auteurs Lisa van Dijk, Thomas Legein, Jean-Benoit Pilet e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Recently, studies have burgeoned on the link between populism and demands for democratic reforms. In particular, scholars have been debating the link between populist citizens or voters and support for referendums. In this article, we examine voters of populist parties (Vlaams Belang (VB) and Parti du Travail de Belgique-Partij van de Arbeid (PTB-PVDA)) in Belgium in 2019 and we look at their attitudes towards various types of democratic reforms. We find that voters of populist parties differ from the non-populist electorate in their support for different kinds of reforms of representative democracy. Voters of VB and PTB-PVDA have in common stronger demands for limiting politicians’ prerogatives, for introducing binding referendums and for participatory budgeting. While Vlaams Belang voters are not significantly different from the non-populist electorate on advisory referendums, citizens’ forums or technocratic reform, PVDA-PTB voters seem more enthusiastic.


Lisa van Dijk
Lisa van Dijk (corresponding author), KU Leuven.

Thomas Legein
Thomas Legein, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

Jean-Benoit Pilet
Jean-Benoit Pilet, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

Sofie Marien
Sofie Marien, KU Leuven.
Article

Getting Party Activists on Local Lists

How Dutch Local Party Branches Perform Their Recruitment Function

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2020
Trefwoorden municipal politics, political parties, candidate lists, local party branches, recruitment
Auteurs Simon Otjes, Marcel Boogers en Gerrit Voerman
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article examines what explains the performance of Dutch local party branches in the recruitment of candidates for municipal councils. Fielding a list of candidates is the most basic function of political parties. In the Netherlands, party branches are under pressure from the low number of party members. To analyse how branches fulfil their role in recruitment, we employ our own survey of the secretaries of party branches held in the run-up to the 2018 municipal election. We find that party membership drives the successful fulfilment of the recruitment function but that, more than the absolute number of members, the crucial factors are how these party members cooperate, the number of active members and the development of this number.


Simon Otjes
Simon Otjes is Assistant Professor of Dutch Politics at Leiden University and researcher at the Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties of Groningen University. His research focuses on political parties, parliaments and public opinion. His articles have appeared in the American Journal of Political Science and in the European Journal of Political Research, among others.

Marcel Boogers
Marcel Boogers is Professor of Innovation and Regional governance at Twente University. His research focuses on the structure of and dynamics within networks of local and regional governments. Boogers combines his position at Twente University with a position as senior advisor at consultancy firm BMC.

Gerrit Voerman
Gerrit Voerman is Professor of the Development and Function of the Dutch and European Party System at Groningen University and Director of its Centre Dutch Political Parties. His research focuses on political parties, their history and their organisation. He is editor of a long-running series of books on Dutch political parties.
Article

Access_open The Feminisation of Belgian Local Party Politics

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2020
Trefwoorden local politics, local party branches, local elections, gender quotas, Belgium
Auteurs Robin Devroe, Silvia Erzeel en Petra Meier
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article investigates the feminisation of local politics. Starting from the observation that the representation of women in local electoral politics lags behind the regional and federal level, and taking into account the relevance of local party branches in the recruitment and selection of candidates for elections, we examine the extent to which there is an ‘internal’ feminisation of local party branches and how this links to the ‘external’ feminisation of local electoral politics. Based on surveys among local party chairs, the article maps patterns of feminisation over time and across parties, investigates problems local branches encounter in the recruitment of candidates for local elections, and analyses the (attitudes towards the) measures taken to further the integration of women in local electoral politics. We conclude that internal and external feminisation do not always go hand in hand and that local politics continues to be a male-dominated political biotope.


Robin Devroe
Robin Devroe is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Political Sciences of Ghent University and member of the research group GASPAR. Her main research interest is the study of the political representation of diverse social groups and voting behaviour, with a specific focus on the descriptive representation of women, and she has a fascination for experimental methods. Her doctoral work (2019, Ghent University) focused on the prevalence of political gender stereotypes among Flemish voters. In the past, Robin was a visiting scholar at Texas A&M University (2018, US). Since 2020, she has been co-convenor of the European Consortium for Political Research’s (ECPR’s) Group on Gender and Politics.

Silvia Erzeel
Silvia Erzeel is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Her research interests include party politics, political representation, gender and intersectionality, and comparative politics. Her current research focuses on three main areas: the integration of gender equality in political parties, intersectionality and political representation in Europe, and the consequences of economic and social inequality for representative democracy. Since 2018, she has been co-convenor of the European Consortium for Political Research’s (ECPR’s) Standing Group on Gender and Politics.

Petra Meier
Petra Meier is Professor of Politics at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Antwerp. Her research focuses on the (re)presentation of gender+ in politics and policies. Late work focused on the conceptualisation of symbolic representation, how it operates and the issues at stake from an inclusive perspective. Recently, she turned to study democratic deficits in federal systems, especially Belgium, and processes of de-democratisation in general. She is particularly interested in understanding how such processes affect the demos, more particularly from a gender, an LGBTQI or an ethnic perspective, and what dynamics of marginalisation and exclusion they generate.
Article

Introduction: Parties at the Grassroots

Local Party Branches in the Low Countries

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2020
Auteurs Bram Wauters, Simon Otjes en Emilie van Haute
Auteursinformatie

Bram Wauters
Bram Wauters is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Sciences of Ghent University, where he leads the research group GASPAR. His research interests include political representation, elections and political parties, with specific attention for diversity. He has recently published on these topics in journals such as Party Politics, Political Studies, Politics & Gender and Political Research Quarterly. He is co-editor (with Knut Heidar) of ‘Do parties still represent?’ (Routledge, 2019).

Simon Otjes
Simon Otjes is Assistant Professor of Dutch Politics at Leiden University and researcher at the Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties of Groningen University. His research focuses on political parties, parliaments and public opinion. His research has appeared in various journals, including American Journal of Political Science and European Journal of Political Research.

Emilie van Haute
Emilie van Haute is Chair of the Department of Political Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and researcher at the Centre d’étude de la vie politique (Cevipol). Her research interests focus on party membership, intra-party dynamics, elections and voting behaviour. Her research has appeared in West European Politics, Party Politics, Electoral Studies, Political Studies or European Political Science. She is co-editor of Acta Politica.
Article

Between Party Democracy and Citizen Democracy

Explaining Attitudes of Flemish Local Chairs Towards Democratic Innovations

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2020
Trefwoorden democratic innovations, citizen participation, local politics, Flanders, Belgium
Auteurs Didier Caluwaerts, Anna Kern, Min Reuchamps e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    As a response to the perceived legitimacy crisis that threatens modern democracies, local government has increasingly become a laboratory for democratic renewal and citizen participation. This article studies whether and why local party chairs support democratic innovations fostering more citizen participation. More specifically, we analyse the relative weight of ideas, interests and institutions in explaining their support for citizen-centred democracy. Based on the Belgian Local Chairs Survey in 2018 (albeit restricting our analysis to Flanders), the central finding is that ideas matter more than interests and institutions. Ideology is alive and kicking with regard to democratic innovation, with socialist and ecologist parties and populist parties being most supportive of participatory arrangements. By contrast, interests and institutions play, at this stage, a minor role in explaining support for participatory innovations.


Didier Caluwaerts
Didier Caluwaerts is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His research and teaching deal with Belgian and comparative politics and democratic governance in deeply divided societies. His work has been published in various journals, including European Political Science Review, West European Politics, the Journal of Legislative Studies and Acta Politica.

Anna Kern
Anna Kern is Assistant Professor at research group GASPAR at the Department of Political Science of Ghent University. Her main research interests include political participation, political equality and political legitimacy. Her work has been published in international peer-reviewed journals such as West European Politics, Local Government Studies, Social Science Research and Political Behavior.

Min Reuchamps
Min Reuchamps is Professor of Political science at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). His teaching and research interests are federalism and multilevel governance, democracy and its different dimensions, relations between language(s) and politics and, in particular, the role of metaphors, as well as participatory and deliberative methods.

Tony Valcke
Tony Valcke is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Ghent University. He is a member of the Centre for Local Politics (CLP) and coordinator of the Teacher Training Department. His research, publications and educational activities focus on elections and democratic participation/innovation, citizenship (education), (the history of) political institutions and (local) government reform, political elites and leadership.
Article

Like Mother, Like Daughter?

Linkage Between Local Branches and Their National Party Headquarters in Belgium

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2020
Trefwoorden local branches, national party headquarters, linkage, integration, multilevel parties
Auteurs Kristof Steyvers
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article scrutinises local-national linkage in Belgium to better understand territorial power relations in multilevel parties. Drawing on a survey of local chairs of national parties, it adopts an innovative, informal and bottom-up approach. The descriptive analysis reveals two central axes in the morphology of linkage: scope (downward support and upward influence) and surplus (benefits versus costs). However, (the valuation of) this interdependence appears as a matter of degree. The explanatory analysis therefore probes into the effect of macro- (between environments), meso- (between parties) and micro- (within parties) level factors. It demonstrates that variance is explained by different parameters. For scope, differences between parties trump those within them. For surplus, specific differences between parties as well as within them matter. The answer to our guiding question is therefore variegated: it depends on for what and for whom.


Kristof Steyvers
Kristof Steyvers is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science of Ghent University (Belgium). His research is conducted in the Centre for Local Politics, where he focuses on topics such as local political leadership, parties and elections at the local level, local government in multilevel governance and local government reforms (often from a comparative perspective).
Article

Interest Representation in Belgium

Mapping the Size and Diversity of an Interest Group Population in a Multi-layered Neo-corporatist Polity

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering Online First 2020
Trefwoorden interest groups, advocacy, access, advisory councils, media attention
Auteurs Evelien Willems, Jan Beyers en Frederik Heylen
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article assesses the size and diversity of Belgium’s interest group population by triangulating four data sources. Combining various sources allows us to describe which societal interests get mobilised, which interest organisations become politically active and who gains access to the policy process and obtains news media attention. Unique about the project is the systematic data collection, enabling us to compare interest representation at the national, Flemish and Francophone-Walloon government levels. We find that: (1) the national government level remains an important venue for interest groups, despite the continuous transfer of competences to the subnational and European levels, (2) neo-corporatist mobilisation patterns are a persistent feature of interest representation, despite substantial interest group diversity and (3) interest mobilisation substantially varies across government levels and political-administrative arenas.


Evelien Willems
Evelien Willems, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Jan Beyers
Jan Beyers, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Frederik Heylen
Frederik Heylen, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.
Article

Still Consociational? Belgian Democracy, 50 Years After ‘The Politics of Accommodation’

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden Belgium, consociational democracy, Lijphart, federalism, ethnolinguistic conflict
Auteurs Didier Caluwaerts en Min Reuchamps
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Despite the enduring importance of Lijphart’s work for understanding democracy in Belgium, the consociational model has come under increasing threat. Owing to deep political crises, decreasing levels of trust in elites, increasing levels of ethnic outbidding and rising demands for democratic reform, it seems as if Lijphart’s model is under siege. Even though the consociational solution proved to be very capable of transforming conflict into cooperation in Belgian politics in the past, the question we raise in this article is whether and to what extent the ‘politics of accommodation’ is still applicable to Belgian democracy. Based on an in-depth analysis of the four institutional (grand coalition, proportionality, mutual veto rights and segmental autonomy) and one cultural (public passivity) criteria, we argue that consociational democracy’s very nature and institutional set-up has largely hollowed out its potential for future conflict management.


Didier Caluwaerts
Didier Caluwaerts is professor of political science at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His research deals with democratic governance and innovation in deeply divided societies. With Min Reuchamps, he has recently published “The Legitimacy of Citizen-led Deliberative Democracy: The G1000 in Belgium” (Routledge, 2018).

Min Reuchamps
Min Reuchamps is professor of political science at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). His teaching and research interests are federalism and multi-level governance, democracy and its different dimensions, relations between language(s) and politics and in particular the role of metaphors, as well as participatory and deliberative methods.
Article

Populism as a Visual Communication Style

An Exploratory Study of Populist Image Usage of Flemish Block/Interest in Belgium (1991-2018)

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden Populism, image use, visual style, campaign, posters, visual, Flanders, populist right, Belgium
Auteurs Kevin Straetemans
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article analyses the visual communication of the Flemish populist right-wing party Vlaams Blok/Vlaams Belang, and investigates whether or not the party uses a specific populist communication style in its campaign posters, whether or not its visual style evolves over time and how the party distinguishes itself from other (right-wing) parties in its use of images. To do this, the image use will be compared with the CVP/CD&V and the Volksunie/N-VA. This use of images will be investigated by analysing election posters from 1991 to 2018. The analysis shows that there is indeed a ‘populist visual style’. These items consist mainly of (negative) metaphors, false dilemmas, caricatures and the use of so-called ‘agonic’ visual techniques.


Kevin Straetemans
Kevin Straetemans attained a Master’s degree in Political Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 2018. He is currently pursuing an Educational Master in Social Sciences at the same university. His research interests are political parties, elections, extremism, propaganda and political communication.
Article

Deliberation Out of the Laboratory into Democracy

Quasi-Experimental Research on Deliberative Opinions in Antwerp’s Participatory Budgeting

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden Deliberative democracy, mini-publics, participatory budget, social learning, deliberative opinions
Auteurs Thibaut Renson
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    The theoretical assumptions of deliberative democracy are increasingly embraced by policymakers investing in local practices, while the empirical verifications are often not on an equal footing. One such assertion concerns the stimulus of social learning among participants of civic democratic deliberation. Through the use of pre-test/post-test panel data, it is tested whether participation in mini-publics stimulates the cognitive and attitudinal indicators of social learning. The main contribution of this work lies in the choice of matching this quasi-experimental set-up with a natural design. This study explores social learning across deliberation through which local policymakers invite their citizens to participate in actual policymaking. This analysis on the District of Antwerp’s participatory budgeting demonstrates stronger social learning in real-world policymaking. These results inform a richer theory on the impacts of deliberation, as well as better use of limited resources for local (participatory) policymaking.


Thibaut Renson
Thibaut Renson is, inspired by the 2008 Obama campaign, educated as a Political Scientist (Ma EU Studies, Ghent University) and Political Philosopher (Ma Global Ethics and Human Values, King’s College London). Landed back at the Ghentian Centre for Local Politics to do empirical research. Driven by the moral importance of social learning (vs. political consumerism) in democracy, exploring the empirical instrumentality of deliberation.
Article

Access_open Opening the Opaque Blank Box

An Exploration into Blank and Null Votes in the 2018 Walloon Local Elections

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden voting, elections, blank vote, invalid vote, abstention
Auteurs Jean-Benoit Pilet, Maria Jimena Sanhuza, David Talukder e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In this article, we propose an in-depth exploration of blank and null ballots in the recent 2018 local elections in Wallonia (Belgium). In the official results, both blank and null ballots are merged together and are classified as invalid votes. After obtaining the authorization to access genuine electoral ballots, we study the votes which were not considered for the composition of local councils in detail. The dataset is a representative sample of 13,243 invalidated ballots from 49 Walloon municipalities. We first describe how many of these invalidated ballots are blank and how many are null votes, as well as the nature of the nulled votes (unintended errors or intentionally spoiled ballots). Second, we dig deeper into the differences between ballots that have been intentionally invalidated by voters (blank votes and intentional null votes) and ballots non-intentionally invalidated. Our results show that most of the ballots (two-thirds) are null ballots and that among them, half are unintentional null ballots. Finally, we show that contextual (socio-demographic and political) factors explain the variations in intentional and unintentional null votes across municipalities.


Jean-Benoit Pilet
Jean-Benoit Pilet is professor of political science at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He works on elections, political parties, and democratic reforms. He has recently co-authored Faces on the Ballot. The Personalization of Electoral Systems in Europe (OUP, 2016, with Alan Renwick) and The Politics of Party Leadership (OUP, 2016, with William Cross).

Maria Jimena Sanhuza
Maria Jimena Sanhueza is PhD Researcher in Political Science at Universite Libre de Bruxelles where she is associated to three projects studying Belgian politics. Her research focuses on citizenship, representation and democracy. Before starting her PhD, Maria Jimena worked as assistant researcher for EU HORIZON 2020 projects Pathways to Power and Solidarity in Times on Crisis, and co-authored a few publications on European democracies and representation.

David Talukder
David Talukder is PhD candidate at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He is conducting a thesis on the reform of representative democracy, looking at disadvantaged groups’ evaluation of representative democracy and demands for procedural democratic reforms. His main research interests are related to procedural democratic reforms, participatory democracy and democratic innovations.

Jérémy Dodeigne
Jérémy Dodeigne is associate professor in political science at the Université de Namur. His research areas cover the study of political representation in multilevel systems, local politics, comparative politics and mixed methods research designs. His work appears in journals such as Party Politics, American Behavioral Scientist, Local Government Studies, Regional & Federal Studies, Government & Opposition, and Representation.

Audrey E. Brennan
Audrey E. Brennan is completing a joint doctorate in political science at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and Université Laval. Her research interests are political parties, elections, and political participation. Her dissertation studies the effect of leadership change mechanisms on the long-term behaviour of political party members.
Article

How to Improve Local Turnout

The Effect of Municipal Efforts to Improve Turnout in Dutch Local Elections

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden turnout, local elections, get out the vote, campaign, the Netherlands
Auteurs Julien van Ostaaijen, Sabine van Zuydam en Martijn Epskamp
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Even though many municipalities use a variety of means to improve turnout in local elections, citizen participation in local elections is a point of concern in many Western countries, including the Netherlands. Our research question is therefore: How effective are municipal efforts to improve turnout in (Dutch) local elections? To this end, we collected data from three sources: (1) a survey sent to the municipal clerks of 389 Dutch municipalities to learn what they do to improve turnout; (2) data from Statistics Netherlands on municipalities’ socio-demographic characteristics; and (3) data on the turnout in local elections from the Dutch Electoral Council database. Using hierarchical multiple regression analysis, we found that the direct impact of local governments’ efforts to improve turnout is low. Nevertheless, some measures seem to be able to make a difference. The relative number of polling stations was especially found to impact turnout.


Julien van Ostaaijen
Julien van Ostaaijen is assistant professor of public administration at the Tilburg Institute of Governance (Tilburg University).

Sabine van Zuydam
Sabine van Zuydam is assistant professor of public administration at the Tilburg Institute of Governance (Tilburg University) and researcher at Necker van Naem.

Martijn Epskamp
Martijn Epskamp is a researcher of the municipality of Rotterdam (Research and Business Intelligence department)
Article

Split-Ticket Voting in Belgium

An Analysis of the Presence and Determinants of Differentiated Voting in the Municipal and Provincial Elections of 2018

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden split-ticket voting, local elections, voting motives, Belgium, PR-system
Auteurs Tony Valcke en Tom Verhelst
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article tackles the particular issue of split-ticket voting, which has been largely overlooked in Belgian election studies thus far. We contribute to the literature by answering two particular research questions: (1) to what extent and (2) why do voters cast a different vote in the elections for the provincial council as compared to their vote in the elections for the municipal council?
    The article draws on survey data collected via an exit poll in the ‘Belgian Local Elections Study’, a research project conducted by an inter-university team of scholars.
    Our analysis shows that nearly 45% of the total research population cast a split-ticket vote in the local elections of 2018. However, this number drops to one out of four if we only consider a homogenous party landscape at both levels by excluding the numerous votes for ‘local’ lists (which occur mostly at the municipal level). This finding underlines the importance of accounting for the electoral and institutional context of the different electoral arenas in research on split-ticket voting in PR systems. In the Belgian context, split-ticket voting in 2018 also differed between the different parties and regions. Furthermore, it was encouraged by a higher level of education and familiarity with particular candidates. This candidate-centred and strategic voting was matched by party identification and the urban municipal context favouring straight-ticket voting. Other factors such as region, a rural municipal context and preferential voting seemed more relevant to determine voting for local parties than using the instrument of split-ticket votes as such.


Tony Valcke
Tony Valcke is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Ghent University (Belgium). He is a member of the Centre for Local Politics (CLP) and coordinator of the Teacher Training Department. His research, publications and educational activities focus on elections and democratic participation/innovation, (the history of) political institutions and (local) government reform, political elites and leadership, citizenship (education).

Tom Verhelst
Tom Verhelst is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at Ghent University (Belgium) and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Political Science at Maastricht University (the Netherlands). His research focuses on the Europeanisation of local government (with a particular interest for the regulatory mobilisation of local government in EU decision-making processes) and on the role and position of the local council in Belgium and the Netherlands (with a particular interest for local council scrutiny).
Article

Split Offer and Homogeneous Response in Belgium

The Conceptual and Empirical Limitations of (De)Nationalization

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2019
Trefwoorden (de-)nationalization, voting behaviour, party offer, voter response, methodological nationalism
Auteurs Luana Russo, Kris Deschouwer en Tom Verthé
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    By examining the Belgian case, this article aims to show that methodological nationalism is strongly present in the literature on nationalization of party offer and voting behaviour. In nationalization studies, Belgium is often presented as a typical example of a denationalized country. This is true for the party offer, as it is de facto split between the two language groups since the 1980s, and therefore also voter response at the national level. However, voter response within each separate subnational party system is very homogeneous and shows interesting differences between these party systems that inform us about important electoral dynamics. We argue, on the basis of our results, that rather than stretching the concept of nationalization, it is preferable and justified to treat the concepts of nationalization of the party offer and homogenization of voter response as analytically distinct and not as two sides of the same coin.


Luana Russo
Luana Russo, Maastricht University.

Kris Deschouwer
Kris Deschouwer, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Tom Verthé
Tom Verthé, Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Article

Fiscal Consolidation in Federal Belgium

Collective Action Problem and Solutions

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2019
Trefwoorden fiscal consolidation, fiscal policy, federalism, intergovernmental relations, High Council of Finance
Auteurs Johanna Schnabel
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Fiscal consolidation confronts federal states with a collective action problem, especially in federations with a tightly coupled fiscal regime such as Belgium. However, the Belgian federation has successfully solved this collective action problem even though it lacks the political institutions that the literature on dynamic federalism has identified as the main mechanisms through which federal states achieve cooperation across levels of government. This article argues that the regionalization of the party system, on the one hand, and the rationalization of the deficit problem by the High Council of Finance, on the other, are crucial to understand how Belgium was able to solve the collective action problem despite its tightly coupled fiscal regime and particularly high levels of deficits and debts. The article thus emphasizes the importance of compromise and consensus in reducing deficits and debts in federal states.


Johanna Schnabel
School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent, Rutherford College, Canterbury CT2 7NX, United Kingdom.
Article

Access_open What Is Left of the Radical Right?

The Economic Agenda of the Dutch Freedom Party 2006-2017

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2019
Trefwoorden radical right-wing populist parties, economic policies, welfare chauvinism, populism, deserving poor
Auteurs Simon Otjes
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article examines the economic agenda of the Dutch Freedom Party. It finds that this party mixes left-wing and right-wing policy positions. This inconsistency can be understood through the group-based account of Ennser-Jedenastik (2016), which proposes that the welfare state agenda of radical right-wing populist parties can be understood in terms of populism, nativism and authoritarianism. Each of these elements is linked to a particular economic policy: economic nativism, which sees the economic interest of natives and foreigners as opposed; economic populism, which seeks to limit economic privileges for the elite; and economic authoritarianism, which sees the interests of deserving and undeserving poor as opposed. By using these different oppositions, radical right-wing populist parties can reconcile left-wing and right-wing positions.


Simon Otjes
Assistant professor of political science at Leiden University and researcher at the Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties of Groningen University.
Article

Access_open Do Characteristics of Consociational Democracies Still Apply to Belgian Parties?

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2019
Trefwoorden Belgium, political parties, party membership, political participation, political representation
Auteurs Emilie Van Haute en Bram Wauters
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Belgium has long been described as a typical case of a consociational or consensus democracy. This article aims at identifying whether political parties in Belgium share the internal characteristics of parties in consensus democracies: passive mass memberships, the importance of purposive and material incentives for joining, and representation of a clear subculture in the social and attitudinal profiles of their members and via overlapping memberships with related organizations. We mobilize longitudinal party membership data and party member surveys conducted in three different time periods. We show that pillar parties still exercise their role of mobilization and representation of societal segments, but these segments tend to become smaller over time. New parties offer alternative options of mobilization and representation, although not always in line with the specific institutional arrangements of consociational democracy.


Emilie Van Haute
Emilie Van Haute, Cevipol, Université libre de Bruxelles.

Bram Wauters
Bram Wauters, Research Group GASPAR, Ghent University.
Article

Transformative Welfare Reform in Consensus Democracies

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2019
Trefwoorden consensus democracy, welfare state, social investment, transformative reform, Belgium and the Netherlands
Auteurs Anton Hemerijck en Kees van Kersbergen
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article takes up Lijphart’s claim that consensus democracy is a ‘kinder, gentler’ form of democracy than majoritarian democracy. We zoom in on contemporary welfare state change, particularly the shift towards social investment, and argue that the kinder, gentler hypothesis remains relevant. Consensus democracies stand out in regard to the extent to which their political institutions help to overcome the politically delicate intricacies of governing for the long term. We theorize the features that can help to solve the problem of temporal commitment in democracy through processual mechanisms and illustrate these with short case studies of the contrasting welfare state reform experiences in the Netherlands and Belgium.


Anton Hemerijck
Anton Hemerijck is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy.

Kees van Kersbergen
Kees van Kersbergen is Professor of Comparative Politics at the Department of Political Science of Aarhus University, Denmark.
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