Res Publica

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Issue 4, 2000 Expand all abstracts

    In various parliamentary democracies, institutional reformers have proposed to directly elect the prime minister, but it is only in Israel that this reform has been implemented. In this article, the Israeli model is compared to the proposals involving the direct election of the prime minister in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. The analysis focuses on three crucial characteristics: the object of the election, the electoral system and the relationship between the assembly and the executive. It is shown that there is substantial variation among the models. Some of proposed models are close to the presidential idealtype. Other models combine a direct election of the executive with the possibility of censure by the assembly, and thus constitute a new regime type which can be labelled as 'neo-parliamentary'. The Israeli model belongs to this group, although it is atypical because of the investiture requirement. Finally, some models approach the parliamentary idealtype as they allow the assembly to replace the elected prime minister. White most models involve a concurrent but separate election of the prime minister and the assembly, it is argued that a linked election offers better possibilities to bring about an executive majority in the assembly.

Bart Maddens

    The Christian-democrat/socialist government Martens IV resigned at the end ofMarch 1981, because the socialist party could not agree with an urgency plan to reorganize the public finances. Mark Eyskens, Minister of Finance in that cabinet, put together a new government as soon as April 6 of the same year. He succeeded as Prime Minister while all the other resigning ministers remained in their function. Minister Robert Vandeputte, an extra-parlementarian and honorary governor of the Central Bank, became the new Minister of Finance. Like the preceding governments, the Eyskens cabinet was strongly hampered by deep mistrust between the coalition partners, opposing views between the two communities of Belgium and by disagreements about the way to deal with the socio-economic crisis. The Eyskens cabinet was particularly confronted with the organization of the restructured steelmill Cockerill-Sambre and with the absolute low point of the economic crisis. The budget was strongly affected by the increasing unemployment benefits and the collapse of the fiscal revenues. Due to the continuing protest of the trade unions, Mark Eyskens did not succeed to adapt the automatic wage indexation in order to improve the competitive position ofthe Belgian enterprises. He did however manage to prevent the devaluation of the Belgian franc, which had come under pressure regularly on the financial markets.By the middle of September 1981 the Eyskens government fell as a result of disagreements between the coalition partners about the financing ofthe money loosing steelmill Cockerill-Sambre in Wallonia. Parliamentary elections were advanced to November 8, 1981. The Christiandemocrats lost a considerable number of seats. A Christian-democrat/liberal cabinet, again headed by Wilfried Martens, emerged by mid December. It would carry out a neoliberal policy. Mark Eyskens became the Minister of Economicaffairs in the new government.

Aloïs Van De Voorde

Access_open Een partij op zoek naar haar plaats in de macht

De CVP-PSC tijdens de homogene regeringen (1950 - 1954)

Authors Wouter Beke

    Between 1950 and 1954 Belgium had a homogeneous catholic majority in Parliament. Theoretically this brings about a stable government, but in real term it caused a lot of trouble. The Christian People's Party changed its prime minister three times. Different reasons explain this attempt to further the particracy from a party one had not expected this. First, the outcome ofthe Royal Question creates a tension between the party and the government. The party can not fulfill its election promises. Second, the homogeneous majority is based on a heterogeneous party, where progressives and conservatives, Flemish and Walloon politicians determine the decision-making. Moreover, the party as such claims its position in the decision-making process. The parliamentary groups and the government are considered as executors ofa partyprogram and must thereforebe subordinated to the party. The process where parties expanded to the dominant actor in the political system, becomes clear.

Wouter Beke

    Although parliamentary government is generally taken to be party government and party cohesion is acknowledged a key element thereof, it seems an accepted part of comparative parliamentary research that the effectiveness of parliaments and the level ofparty cohesion are negatively related. This is in part a remnant of the Anglo-American comparative studies that have dominated the discipline for a long time. Within reactive parliaments, this negative relation fails to materialise. Combining results from earlier research and original data, it is demonstrated that a high level ofparty cohesion does not prevent parliaments to be an effective, independent player in government formation, the recruitment of cabinet ministers or policy making. Comparing ten European parliaments, the more effective parliaments do encompass parliamentary parties with the highest level ofcohesion. A more crucial element isperhaps the characteristic of parliamentary parties as essentially oriented to the extra-parliamentary party or as a dominant element in the party-as-a-whole. Further research is however necessary.

Sam Depauw

Access_open Het parlementaire optreden van de eerste minister in België en Nederland

Een vergelijking tussen de regeringen Martens VIII, Dehaene I en Lubbers III

Authors Jo Noppe

    The relation between the constitutionally founded supremacy of the parliament and the authoriy of the Prime Minister (PM) based on common law, is of a great importance in the Low Countries. This relation constitutes the difference between parliamentary and presidential regimes. It is the PM's duty to take care of the permanent support ofthe parliamentary majority. This is not an easy exercise. Members of parliament are not always as positive about the PM's parliamentary performances. Characteristics of the parliamentary activity of the Belgian PM's Wilfried Martens, Jean-Luc Dehaene and the Dutch Ruud Lubbers are handled as: the frequency and the extent of the PM's parliamentary performances, the topics handled by the PM's in parliament, the PM's opponents in parliamentary debate and finally more generally the PM's parliamentary role behaviour. Due to the different position of both the parliament and the PM in the Belgian and the Dutch political system, the characteristics of the parliamenty activity of the Belgian and the Dutch PM are not always very similar. Additionally, remarkable differences occur between the parliamentary activity of different PM'swithin the same country.

Jo Noppe

    In the domain of survey research, it is well known and documented that the structure, wording, and context of questions may affect the distributions of the responses to choice questions. Surprisingly, the application of the knowledge about these effects is not often made in the domain of referendums. Only few studies deal with the effects of question characteristics in referendums, although in the field, there are many discussions about the results obtained by problematic questions. In this study, a number of wording effects that can be expected in referendums are discussed in the context of the actual state of theory and knowledge in the research on question wording effects in surveys. Some are well known and others are new, but also very relevant. The expected problems deal with: the choice between real alternatives; the decision about the majority in the case of multiple choice questions; the ambiguity in the choice between "yes" and "no"; the bidden response scale behind "yes-no" questions and the selection of the of verbs or qualifiers; the use of"double barrelled questions"; the suggestive wordings in the question text or in the introduction; the context of the questions when several questions are asked response sets. The importance and seriousness of each ofthese effects is evaluated, and reflections are made on the quality of the questions in referendums. Consequently suggestions are made about the kind of questions that can be used in referendums.

Jaak Billiet

    On October 8th 2000 municipal elections were held in Belgium to renew the local councils which had been elected in 1994. In the Walloon region and in Flanders in addition provincial elections were organised. The aim of the article is to try and measure globally where the political forces stand after these elections and among others to assess whether significant swings have take place since june 13th, 1999, when the latest parliamentary and regional elections took place. On the basis of an estimation of the global results in the municipal elections of the various parties in the Walloon region, in Flanders and in Brussels, backed up by the actual results of the provincial elections, one can say that the liberal group bas strengthened its first position. The Christian democrats, who make up the second most important political group and the Socialists, who rank third, have regained a large part of the losses they incurred onjune 13th, 1999. Although improving their results in comparison with 1994, the Green parties lost again part of their advance they registered in the parliamentary and regional elections and which had probably been boosted by the dioxin crisis. The frenchspeaking far right practically disappears, whereas the Vlaams Blok obtained an average of 15 % of the Flemish electorate in the municipal and provincial elections, a level which it had reached in the 1999 parliamentary elections.

William Fraeys