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Research Note

Caretaker Cabinets in Belgium

A New Measurement and Typology

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2021
Trefwoorden caretaker government, Belgium, cabinets, political crisis
Auteurs Régis Dandoy en Lorenzo Terrière
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Belgium is probably the world’s best known case of where caretaker governments reside. Yet a clear scholarly definition and measurement of this concept is missing. Based on a detailed analysis of the Belgian federal cabinets, this research note explores the main characteristics and measures the length of the various caretaker periods. We find that Belgium was governed for no less than 1,485 days by a caretaker government between 2007 and 2020, which equals more than four full calendar years. This research note also presents a novel typology of caretaker periods based on the institutional and political practice within the Belgian legislative and executive branches. This typology can be used to assess caretaker periods at other levels of government as well as in other countries in order to improve our understanding of the many ‘faces’ that a caretaker government can take on.


Régis Dandoy
Régis Dandoy is professor in political science at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and visiting research fellow and guest lecturer at the University of Brussels, Belgium. His main research interests include comparative politics, federalism, voting behaviour, election results, electronic and internet voting and election observation.

Lorenzo Terrière
Lorenzo Terrière is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at Ghent University. His doctoral research is focused on how (regionalist) parties deal with the strategic issue of government participation.

Dr. Rik Reussing
Dr. G.H. Reussing is onderwijscoördinator van de joint degree Public Governance across Borders aan de Universiteit Twente en redactiesecretaris van Bestuurswetenschappen.

Dr. Rik Reussing
Dr. G.H. Reussing is onderwijscoördinator van de opleiding European Public Administration aan de Universiteit Twente en redactiesecretaris van Bestuurswetenschappen.

    This contribution gives an overview of the results of recent research into the role perception and the role behaviour of councillors. The research is the MAELG-survey (Municipal Assemblies in European Local Governance) carried out in 2007 and 2008 in 15 European countries and Israel. A special issue of Local Government Studies has been dedicated to this research. Three articles of this special issue are discussed intensively. These articles look at the role perception and the role behaviour of local councillors from the perspective of the tension between representative and participative democracy, the relation between participative democracy (also called citizen democracy) and the responsiveness of councillors and the influence of informal institutions on the representation style of local councils. Another recent article in Acta Politica looks specifically at the situation in Belgium. It is interesting that the authors do not apply the classic typology of representation styles (trustee and delegate), but an alternative typology (with delegation, responsiveness, authorization and accountability as four styles of representation) developed by the Dutch political scientists Andeweg and Thomassen.


Dr. Rik Reussing
Dr. G.H. Reussing is redactiesecretaris van Bestuurswetenschappen en onderwijscoördinator van de opleiding European Public Administration aan de Universiteit Twente.
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