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Formele bestuurslaag of informele belangengroep?

Een literatuurstudie over de rol en invloed van lokale besturen in het Europese multilevel governance systeem

Tijdschrift Res Publica, Aflevering 3 2018
Trefwoorden local government, Europeanization, multilevel governance, interest group politics, European decision-making, literature review
Auteurs Tom Verhelst
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Should we consider local authorities and their associations as a formal government layer when they interact with the European institutions in order to influence EU legislation, or should this be classified as informal territorial interest group behaviour? This paper discusses the role and the influence of local authorities in the European decision-making process. Based on a literature review, the paper contrasts both positions in terms of theoretical underpinning, practical implementation and academic state of affairs. The paper demonstrates that whilst the formal perspective has gained more leeway in the official European policy discourse and subsequent institutionalisation in recent decades, it is often insufficient to guarantee the effective inclusion of local authorities in EU policy-making. Interest group action, i.e. lobbying, might therefore still be a more practical and powerful way of promoting local political interests in the European policy arena.


Tom Verhelst
Tom Verhelst is als postdoctoraal onderzoeker verbonden aan het Centrum voor Lokale Politiek van de Universiteit Gent. Hij schreef een proefschrift over de rol en positie van de gemeenteraad en de gemeenteraadsleden in België. Zijn huidig onderzoek heeft hoofdzakelijk betrekking op de Europeanisering van lokale besturen en de functie van lokale besturen in het Europese multilevel governance systeem. In het bijzonder buigt hij zich over de vraag hoe lokale besturen invloed kunnen uitoefenen op Europese besluitvorming.

Montserrat González Garibay
Instituut voor Internationaal en Europees Beleid K.U.Leuven.

    In national elections the results tend to become more ‘nationalized’: a homogeneous party offer all over the territory, less variation in the results per constituency and more homogeneous electoral swings. This article investigates whether this nationalization can also be witnessed at local elections. It focuses on two indicators: the party offer and the voting behaviour. The party offer is the presence of the national parties on the local ballot paper, while the voting behaviour looks at patterns of homogeneity across the municipalities.
    The answer to the question of nationalization is mixed. The Flemish and Walloon local elections display the same long-term trend as the national elections, but they keep their own local character. The heterogeneity of the local party offer clearly demonstrates the local specificity of the local elections, and consequently the voting behaviour also differs from the voting behaviour at national elections. We also find that the local elections in Wallonia are less nationalized than in Flanders.
    Although the local character of the local elections remains important, the newer parties – Ecolo and Groen! – show until 2000 a clear trend towards nationalization. Especially the extreme right Vlaams Belang shows positive scores on all indicators of nationalization since its first local appearance in 1982.


Fanny Wille
Fanny Wille is verbonden als assistent/vorser aan de Vakgroep Politieke Wetenschappen en de Vakgroep Micro-economics of the Profit and Non-Profit Sectors aan de Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Zij doet onderzoek naar lokale coalitievorming.

Kris Deschouwer
Kris Deschouwer is gewoon hoogleraar aan de Vakgroep Politieke Wetenschappen van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Hij doet onderzoek naar politieke vertegenwoordiging in systemen met een complexe institutionele context.

    We analyse the presence of a cost of ruling and/or incumbency advantage in the municipal elections in Flanders of 1988, 1994 and 2000. The empirical work concentrates on vote share evolutions of the three main parties: CD&V, Sp.a and VLD. We find evidence that being in power leads to an incumbency advantage, especially for those parties who provide the mayor. The results indicate that this electoral advantage is not uniform among parties (the socialist party appears to benefit more) and, importantly, the incumbency advantage seems to dampen over successive elections. From the perspective of the local politicians, it is important to keep in mind that this incumbency advantage at the local level was insufficient to compensate for the general trend of the major parties to lose votes at all levels of government. Indeed, even in the 1988 elections – where a clear local incumbency (mayor) advantage could be identified for each of the three parties – it was the case that government parties on average lost votes.


Jan Vermeir
Jan Vermeir promoveerde in 2006 tot dr. in de economische wetenschappen aan de VUB met een proefschrift ‘Essays on Elections and Coalition Formation’. Hij is auteur van artikels in European Journal of Political Research, Electoral Studies, Applied Economics, ...

Bruno Heyndels
Bruno Heyndels is hoogleraar in de economie aan de VUB. Hij verricht onderzoek omtrent de interactie economie & politiek, economie & cultuur en economie & sport. Hij is auteur van talrijke publicaties in (internationale) tijdschriften.
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