Politics of the Low Countries

Article

Do Characteristics of Consociational Democracies Still Apply to Belgian Parties?

Keywords Belgium, political parties, party membership, political participation, political representation
Authors Emilie Van Haute en Bram Wauters
Author's information

343185 Emilie Van Haute
Emilie Van Haute, Cevipol, Université libre de Bruxelles.

343188 Bram Wauters
Bram Wauters, Research Group GASPAR, Ghent University.
  • Abstract

      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.

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