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Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries x Jaar 2021 x
Article

Performing the COVID-19 Crisis in Flemish Populist Radical-Right Discourse

A Case Study of Vlaams Belang’s Coronablunderboek

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2021
Trefwoorden populism, COVID-19, crisis, discourse
Auteurs Jens Meijen
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In June 2020, the Flemish populist radical right party Vlaams Belang (VB) published the Corona Blunder Book (CBB; Coronablunderboek in Dutch), detailing the government’s mistakes in handling the COVID-19 crisis. Populist parties can ‘perform’ crisis by emphasising the mistakes made by opponents (Moffitt, 2015) and may use a specifically populist discursive style, consisting largely of aggressive and sarcastic language (Brubaker, 2017). This paper takes the CBB as a case study in the populist performance of crisis and the populist style, finding that the book is, first, a clear example of populist ‘everyman’ stylistics and the performance of crisis, and, second, that VB uses the book to shift the COVID-19 crisis from a public health crisis to a crisis of governance, seeking to blame Belgium’s federal structure for the government’s alleged mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic and hence arguing for Flemish independence, one of the party’s main agenda points.


Jens Meijen
Jens Meijen is a PhD candidate at Leuven International and European Studies (LINES) at KU Leuven. His research focuses on nationalism, populism, and diplomacy.
Article

The Praise for a ‘Caretaker’ Leader

Gendered Press Coverage of Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès in a COVID-19 Context

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 2 2021
Trefwoorden political leadership, crisis, care, Belgium, gendered media coverage
Auteurs Clémence Deswert
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Studies on media coverage of women politicians have underlined how the media contribute to the association of the figure of the political leader with masculinity. Yet, the social construction of leadership seems to evolve towards a more ‘femininity-inclusive’ definition. Research on the ‘glass cliff’ phenomenon suggests that stereotypical feminine attributes might be expected from political leaders in a time of crisis. We investigated the gendered construction of political leadership in the press in a COVID-19 context through the case of former Belgian Prime minister Sophie Wilmès. In line with the ‘think crisis-think female’ association, our discourse analysis shows an appreciation of traditionally feminine traits, and particularly care-related qualities, in the evaluation of what a ‘good’ leader should be in pandemic times, although some characteristics traditionally associated with masculinity are still considered valuable assets in the journalistic portrayal of Wilmès’ leadership.


Clémence Deswert
Clémence Deswert is a PhD candidate at the Political Science Department of the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). Her research interests include political communication and political representation of women. Declaration of interests: I confirm that this article was not submitted to or publicised in another journal. No conflict of interest exists.
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.
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