Res Publica

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Issue 1, 1995 Expand all abstracts

Access_open Algemene inleiding

Machtige en onmachtige drukkingsgroepen

Authors August Van Den Brande

August Van Den Brande

    The relationships between the political parties (Christian Democrats, Socialists and Liberals) and the social movements that emerged in the last part of the previous century has been described as a pillarized form of intermediation. The political parties were built on the major cleavages that divided the Belgium society and the links between each organisational network (pillar) and the political party were exclusive, stable, and formal (or structural). In the so-called new social movements, the links with the political parties are specific, unstable, and informal. A vast and stable support for each network party by the majority of the members of the social organisations that belang to each network (or 'world') is one of the conditions for an adequate functioning of the model of pillarized intermediation. Is that condition still met in Flanders after the General Elections ofNovember 24, 1991? This study, based on a sample of 2,691 Flemish voters, shows strong differences in 'faithful' and stable voting behaviour according to the generation and the kind of involvement in the social organisations (trade unions, health insurance organisations, and Christian Labour Movement). Among the generations that were born after 1945, the proportion of electoral 'movers' is larger than the proportion ofvoters that remain faithful to their network party. In the generations born before 1945, stable and faithful voting behaviour is still dominant in the three traditional political families. The more involvement in the Christian Labour Movement, the higher the degree of stable voting behaviour in favour of the Christian Democratie Party. A logistic regression analysis with church involvement, age category, urban environment, and several organizational variabels shows thatmembership of social organisations still has a substantial effect on stable voting behaviour. The future of the pillarized model of intermediation is discussed in view of these results.

Jaak Billiet

Access_open Inspraak van het lid in het VBO

Authors Wilfried Bernaert

    The Federation of Belgian companies (VBO/FEB) is a confederation which groups 36 branch associations covering 30. 000 individual firms. About 85 % are small and medium-sizedfirms occupying less than 50 employees. The VBO/FEB is the most important exponent of the high degree of affiliation on the employers' side. The process of decision making reflects the structure of the federation. The mandate is defined in the board of the VBO/FEB, composed by a representative ofeach branch association. This representative holds his mandate on the basis of the deliberations held in the elected board of his association. The guiding principle is consensus, which is not synonymous of unanimity. When a consistent and representative majority emerges from the debate, the members holding another opinion join that majority in a spirit ofemployers' solidarity. The decision making process aims in this way to combine efficiency and democracy. This is particularly important for the VBO/FEB, as that organisation not only acts as a lobby but also as a social partner able to conclude agreements. In the Belgian system, social partners are consulted by the authorities, because of their representativeness. It must however be clear that they may not interfere with the political decisions which in our democratic system rest with government and parliament.

Wilfried Bernaert

Access_open De spreiding van betogingen in België

Authors Jozef Smits

    In this article the spread of demonstrations - a political activity that situates itself in the middle on the scale of conventional - unconventional political action - is studied. The rare survey of the effective participation in demonstrations in Belgium shows that it is rather high. An extensive minority of some 20 to 25% ofthe Belgians declares to have participated in a demonstration. These figures modify the image of the passive, indifferent citizen that research of conventional political participation has shown. The spread of the participation in demonstrations according to age and professional activity, moreover, differs from the pattern found in conventional participation. Demonstrating is typical behaviour of the younger age-categories and therefore of students, but also of farmers, blue collar workers and lower-ranked white collar workers. From this survey follow a number of results connected to the use of demonstrations and the number of demonstrators during the period 1953-74. Related statistics indicate that the number of demonstrations and demonstrators increases, the latter not to the same extent as the farmer however. Furthermore it appears that students, labor unions and agricultural organizations have often come to the streets to enforce their demands. Thematically speaking, particularly problems related to traditional cleavages in Belgian polities have been theobject of demonstrations: ideological, socio-economic and linguistic issues. Organizations active in the area of this cleavages are able to mobilize a great number ofdemonstrators. These organizations are for the most part pillarized and structurally well-developed. Nevertheless the division between issues and organizations during the period 1953-74 has become less unequal. During the sixties and the early seventies the share of traditional cleavages in the number of demonstrations and demonstrators is becoming smaller. New organizations areusing demonstrations more and more to put new issues (environment, foreign policy, quality ofdemocracy, etc.) on the political agenda. They have, however, not the same power to mobilise as do the pillarized organizations.

Jozef Smits

    In this contribution, different elements which clarify the influence of the four yearly social elections on workers'participation are brought together. The author explains that representatives of only two advisory bodies on company level are elected. Nevertheless the social elections have an effect on a broader scale. The elections play a part in the protection of representatives in the trade union delegation, a third representative body on company level. Furthermore the elections can affect the relations which are situated above the company level (relations inside a trade union, between different trade unions and possibly hetween trade unions and the world of politics). Moreover a growing package of powers is granted to the workers' representatives. There is however an important difference between the social and the political elections. Political elections can cause a genuine change of power, social elections on the other hand can never change the postwar basic compromise: the employer preserves most of the decision power. The author outlines furthermore the battle necks of this participation mechanism. The most important bottleneck certainly is the low turn out of candidates for the social elections. For the first time this problem is analysed sectoraly over a longer period of time. It is concluded that there are great differences not only between the economic sectors and the non-economic sectors, but also between the economic sectors themselves. The author also indicates that the decline of active participation in the economic sector since 1975 is mainly situated in seven sectors, which deliver altogether 60% of the mandates in the profit sector. Finally the author touches upon two more bottlenecks, which are already discussed before but which remain nevertheless very important: the low presence of women as candidates and likewise in the distribution of seats, furthermore the relatively great amount of invalid votes in the electoral colleges of workers and young people.

Henk Dejonckheere

    Several tendencies in the process of political decision-making in Belgium tend to put under strain the official model of representative democracy. One of these evolutions is the set up of many advisory councils, and especially the dynamism of some of these advisory councils to move up to participation in the decision-making itself. The process starts at the functional basis of the advisory councils: an information function, an advice function, a function to make proposals, an investigation function and a selection function. It is possible to get to the care of the decision for reason of a liability to advice, the quality as regards content of the advice, the composition of the councils and the appeal to the public opinion. The dysfunctions are the obstacles that need to be advoided: the alibi function, a basis for non-decision, the delay and concealing of the decision-making itself, a certain obliqueness in the composition and the undermining of the representative function of parliament.

Wilfried Dewachter

Access_open De beperking van de wapenhandel

Een voorbeeld van beïnvloeding van de politieke agenda vanuit ontzuilde drukkingsgroepen

Authors Luc Vandeweyer

    In 1991, the Belgian government demissioned because of a dispute about armstrade to the Middle East between the french-speaking and the flemish parties of the majority. This was the result oft he agitation of pressure groups since the beginning of the seventies. They belong to the 'New Social Movements', motivated by post-material values. They developped a succesfull strategy to involve the 'old', pilarised pressure groups and the press. It proved that it was possible for non-pilarised pressure groups to influence the parliament and the government. Nevertheless, these pressure groups were only powerfull in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. This made it possible for the linguistic cleavage to intervene in a decisive way in this political process. It broke up the consensus necessary for the maintaining of the government. The differences in the configuration of the New Social Movements between north and south will also be a reason for further steps in the process of federalising the Belgian state.

Luc Vandeweyer

Access_open De invloed van de milieubeweging op het milieubeleid

Neo-corporatisme of culturele vernieuwing?

Authors Marc Hooghe

    An analysis of recent environmental legislation in Belgium (Flanders) shows that only small part of it originated from direct pressure by the environmental movement. Although in recent years environmental groups were admitted to a number of advisory committees, this did not really made them a more powerful political force. Four reasons can be given for this relative weakness: 1) like all new social movements, the movement bas a weak organisational structure; 2) it's focus is on local disturbances to the environment; 3) it's disruptive potential is limited, especially on the national level; 4) it has little format access to the decision making process. The main consequence of it's activities is an innovation of political culture. The movement is succesful in defining and constructing environmental problems, and forcing them on the public and political agenda, but it lacks the power to steer the decision making process on the issues it has created.

Marc Hooghe

    Before the so-called 'bill Moureaux ', the health insurance policy in Belgium was contracted out by the government to the health workers and the health funds. Also in other sectors (hospitals), government contracted out. This subsidiarity has advantages and disadvantages. Especially because of the unbearable budgetary excesses, this situation started to change since the beginning of the eighties, starting with the hospital sector. In the early nineties, the management of the sickness insurance also went through some radical changes. The budgetary envelope (budget objective) is now mainly established by those who finance the system, e.g. the government and the social partners (employers and workers), who must take their responsibilities. In this new perception, all partners must be made truly accountable. Government must pass on statistic material in order to be able to pursue a well-informed policy. It must also crank up some social debates, namely about the demographic ageing. Health funds and organisations of physicians need a further democratization. The health funds must accomplish at the same time several functions: pressure group, service and consumer defence.

Guy Peeters

    In an economy of concertation, organisations of employers and of employees are legally involved in the process of decision making on economic and especially on social policy. Government recognises officially the so called social partners as the autonomous represents of the industry. They leave them a number of tasks in the creation and administration of social regulations. Within a legal institutional framework of councils, on national, sectoral and local level, bargaining between social partners is aimed to consensus, which is formalized in social pacts or collective agreements on wage formation, working hours, social insurance etc. Social legislation is always advised and often written by the socialpartners (in the National Council of Labour). From 1960 up to now (with an interruption in the period of crisis 1981-86) social development has been shaped by national and sectoral pacts. In the evolution of social insurances for workers the influence of the social partners was also eminent. This model was also working in matters of national health policy, linked to health insurance. The overall evaluation of this system is positive. The role of government and parliament has beenrestrained. But, on a legal base, free cooperation between virtual antagonists has been realised, and the number of conflicts minimized. Trade-unions were integrated in the process of decision making.

Herman Deleeck