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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 1 2021
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 is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science, University of Antwerp. Her research focuses on the interplay between interest groups, public opinion and public policy.

Jan Beyers
Jan Beyers is Full Professor of Political Science at the University of Antwerp. His current research projects focus on how interest groups represent citizens interests and to what extent the politicization of public opinion affects processes of organized interest representation in public policymaking.

Frederik Heylen
Frederik Heylen holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Antwerp. His doctoral dissertation addresses the organizational development of civil society organizations and its internal and external consequences for interest representation. He is co-founder and CEO of Datamarinier.
Article

How Issue Salience Pushes Voters to the Left or to the Right

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2020
Trefwoorden voting behaviour, salience, ideological dimensions, elections, Belgium
Auteurs Stefaan Walgrave, Patrick van Erkel, Isaïa Jennart e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Recent research demonstrates that political parties in western Europe are generally structured along one dimension – and often take more or less similar ideological positions on the economic and cultural dimension – whereas the policy preferences of voters are structured two dimensionally; a considerable part of the electorate combines left-wing stances on one dimension with right-wing stances on the other. These ideologically ‘unserved’ voters are the main focus of this study. Using data from a large-scale survey in Flanders and Wallonia, we demonstrate how the salience of the two dimensions explains whether these unserved voters ultimately end up voting for a right-wing or a left-wing party. Specifically, we show that these voters elect a party that is ideologically closest on the dimension that they deem most important at that time. To summarise, the findings of this study confirm that salience is a key driver of electoral choice, especially for cross-pressured voters.


Stefaan Walgrave
Stefaan Walgrave (Corresponding author), Department of Political Science, University of Antwerp,

Patrick van Erkel
Patrick van Erkel, Department of Political Science, University of Antwerp.

Isaïa Jennart
Isaïa Jennart, Department of Political Science, University of Antwerp.

Jonas Lefevere
Jonas Lefevere, Institute of European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Pierre Baudewyns
Pierre Baudewyns, Institut de Science Politique Louvain-Europe (SSH/SPLE) Department, UCLouvain.
Research Note

Campaigning Online and Offline: Different Ballgames?

Presidentialization, Issue Attention and Negativity in Parties’ Facebook and Newspaper Ads in the 2019 Belgian General Elections

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2020
Trefwoorden political advertising, Belgium, social media, newspapers, campaign
Auteurs Jonas Lefevere, Peter Van Aelst en Jeroen Peeters
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This Research Note investigates party advertising in newspapers and on social media (Facebook) during the 2019 general elections in Flanders, the largest region of Belgium. The 2019 elections saw a marked increase in the use of social media advertising by parties, whereas newspaper advertising saw a decline. Prior research that compares multiple types of advertising, particularly advertising on social and legacy media remains limited. As such, based on a quantitative content analysis we investigate not just the prevalence of party advertising on both types of media, but also compare the level of negativity, presidentialisation, and issue emphasis. Our analysis reveals substantial differences: we find that not only the type of advertisements varies across the platforms, but also that social media ads tend to be more negative. Finally, parties’ issue emphasis varies substantially as well, with different issues being emphasized in newspaper and Facebook advertisements.


Jonas Lefevere
Jonas Lefevere is research professor of political communication at the institute for European Studies (VUB) and assistant professor at Vesalius College, Brussels.

Peter Van Aelst
Peter Van Aelst is a research professor at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp.

Jeroen Peeters
Jeroen Peeters is a PhD student at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp.
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

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

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

Consensus Democracy and Bureaucracy in the Low Countries

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2019
Trefwoorden consensus democracy, bureaucracy, governance system, Lijphart, policymaking
Auteurs Frits van der Meer, Caspar van den Berg, Charlotte van Dijck e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Taking Lijphart’s work on consensus democracies as our point of departure, we signal a major shortcoming in Lijphart’s focus being almost exclusively on the political hardware of the state structure, leaving little attention for the administrative and bureaucratic characteristics of governance systems. We propose to expand the Lijphart’s model which overviews structural aspects of the executive and the state with seven additional features of the bureaucratic system. We argue that these features are critical for understanding the processes of policymaking and service delivery. Next, in order to better understand the functioning of the Netherlands and Belgium as consensus democracies, we provide a short analysis of the historical context and current characteristics of the political-administrative systems in both countries.


Frits van der Meer
Frits van der Meer, Professor Institute Public Administration, Leiden University.

Caspar van den Berg
Caspar van den Berg, Campus Fryslân, University of Groningen.

Charlotte van Dijck
Charlotte van Dijck, PhD Fellow Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), KU Leuven Public Governance Institute.

Gerrit Dijkstra
Gerrit Dijkstra, Senior Lecturer, Leiden University.

Trui Steen
Trui Steen, Professor, KU Leuven Public Governance Institute.
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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