Res Publica

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Issue 1, 1992 Expand all abstracts

    In studies on political decision-making, attention is often limited to domestic factors. However, this study demonstrates that international considerations can play a key role in the decision-making process. Since 1980, competence for environmental policy in Belgium is shared by the national government and the three autonomous regions. The 134 most important environmental measures which have been issued in Flanders since 1980, were studied, and international influence proved to be considerable. In 78 cases, the measure was brought into being due to the environmental policy of the European Community. In 39 cases, there were influences from other sources of international environmental policy. This left only 17 measures which had no clear connection with international environmental policy. It seems that policy scholars have not yet fully realized the extent of this shift of power from the national to the international level, and have rather neglected the international decision-making process.

Marc Hooghe

Access_open Gestion publique et gestion privée des services publics

l'exemple de la restructuration des entreprises publiques économiques en Belgique

Authors Philippe Quertainmont

    The role of state services in a market economy has been lately at the care of an intellectual and political debate in Belgium as well as in most European countries. State companies as the Post Office, the Railways and the Telegraph Service have to face an ever more fierce competition and have to be efficient and profitable. The way to deal with privatisation bas however been much less clearcut in Belgium than in other countries such as the United Kingdom or France. A law bas been passed recently (on 21th March 1991) and the monopoly position of the Transport and Telecommunications state companies has been alleviated and their autonomy increased as a result. A distinction has been made between, on the one hand, the commercial activities for which they have to compete with the private sector and, on the other hand, the activities of public interest which are subject to certain limitations laid down in a management contract ("contrat de gestion").

Philippe Quertainmont

Access_open From work sharing to temporal flexibility

working time policy in Belgium 1975-1990

Authors Jens Bastian

    The article focuses on working time policies introduced in Belgium during the period 1975-1990. As a country with early mass-unemployment, the magnitude of the unfolding Labour market problems fostered a specific set of responsive strategies. The initial trajectory of Belgian working time policies was centered around cutting standard weekly working hours in order to enhance Labour market effects. In the course of a marked issue transformation, work sharing objectives were substituted by the notion of temporal flexibility which focused primarily on concerns for and changes in the economie performance of individual firms. The author outlines various structural features of the Belgian socio-economic system and argues that these profoundly affected the goals identified with working time policies as much as the actor constellations endorsing the respective measures.

Jens Bastian

Access_open De leidinggevende ambtenaren: bureaucraten of ideologen?

Authors Guido Dierickx and Philippe Majersdorf

    The Belgian senior civil servants do have a political ideology which, with respect to coherence and constraint, is not inferior to that of the members of Parliament and, therefore, far superior to that of the common man. The first characteristic of this ideology is its centrism: senior civil servants tend to shun the extremes, especially the socio-economic (leftist and rightist) extremes. A second characteristic is its bias toward the center-right. But the latter may be an effect of recruitment and promotion practices under the recent Belgian governing coalitions, rather than of the bureaucratic experience under all kinds of governments. That the bureaucratie experience leaves its mark on the ideological constructs of the bureaucratie elite can also be inferred from other data. They are inclined to centralism because the recent federalisation process imposes a heavy burden on their routines. They do not have a distinctive ideological profile with respect to religious and philosophical issues because these rarely appear on the agenda of most of the civil servants. The consequences of these characteristic ideological options are not to be underestimated. There is a clear affinity between a leftist ideology and a less technocratic and less alienated political attitude. At the same time leftist civil servantsare more inclined to commit themselves to active partisan politics. Their colleagues of the right tend more to up hold the traditional distance between bureaucracy and partisan politics. The optimal prescription for administrative reform would, perhaps, consist in furthering a more political, less technocratic style of administrative policy making, and in maintaining the traditional wariness of partisan politics.

Guido Dierickx

Philippe Majersdorf

    A simpte solution for polyarchies which have not yet solved the problem of electing democratically a government and which have to cope with the problem of multipartism is proposed. The technique proceeds as follows: in a first round the electorate can make a choice between different candidates for the prime ministership. The candidate who obtains an absolute majority forms a government. If no candidate obtains an absolute majority, which is the most likely outcome, the two best placed candidates participate in a second round. However, each of these candidates now presents a complete government coalition to the electorate. The voters can choose between those two coalitions. The coalition with the majority of the vote becomes the government. The criticism against this proposal is being investigated. The new technique is illustrated on the basis of the political situation in Belgium.

Wilfried Dewachter

Access_open Analyse discriminante et vocabulaire politique

Essai méthodologique

Authors Jacqueline Chapelle, Pierre Couvreur and Giuseppe Pagano

    This paper aims at testing the hypothesis of growing ideological uniformity of political speeches. If political speeches lack ideological differences, it should be difficult to re-classify them only by analyzing the presence or absence of lexical items. We first worked out a method to classify political speeches and then carried a test on two speeches by leading Belgian French-speaking politicians. The method is based on discriminant analysis. It utilizes the words most encountered in one speech and not in the other as discriminant factors. Statistical softwares then assess a discriminant function used to re-classify short parts of each speech called blocks. The most discriminating 10 factors re-classify correctly 89% of the blocks. The percentage increases to 93% with 20 factors and to 98% with 30 factors. However the results should be taken with caution because of the limited sample, the test tends to question the growing uniformity of political speeches. The sampled ones had enough specific features for allowing a rather simpte method to re-classify most parts of them correctly, even if some typically ideological items are not to be found.

Jacqueline Chapelle

Pierre Couvreur

Giuseppe Pagano

Access_open De oorlog om Koeweit ...

Een politiek strijdpunt in Vlaanderen?

Authors Luc Vandeweyer

    During the eighties the 'peace movement' became an important actor in Belgian politics. It was able to promote aspects of international relations and defense policy as 'political issues'. The influence on public opinion and political parties was considerably higher in Flanders than in the french speaking part of the country. After the annexiation of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990, the Belgian government reacted more or less as these organisations desired: prudent, promoting UNO-initiatives and diplomatic solutions to the crisis. Therefore, these peace organisationswere attacked or infiltrated by extreme left wing parties, who wanted to support Saddam Hussein who was seen as a symbol of the third world. As a result of these left wing tactics, the peace movement could not act as it did during the eighties: as a broad force with a coherent programme, with organisations belonging to several ideological pillars and with influence on parties which traditionally belong to the government.

Luc Vandeweyer

Editor Res Publica