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Article

Opposition in Times of COVID-19 – To Support or Not to Support?

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords minority government, rally-around-the-flag, COVID-19, mainstream parties, challenger parties, opposition, party goals
Authors Britt Vande Walle, Wouter Wolfs and Steven Van Hecke
AbstractAuthor's information

    COVID-19 has hit many countries all over the world, and its impact on (party) politics has been undeniable. This crisis situation functions as an opportunity structure incentivising opposition forces to support the government. Not much is known about what drives opposition parties to (not) support the government in crisis situations. This article integrates the literature on rally-around-the-flag, political opportunity structures, party types and party goals. More specifically, we focus on the behaviour of opposition parties towards the government’s crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We analyse whether and how the party type influences the position of the party vis-à-vis the governmental coalition, focusing on the case of Belgium. We categorise the seven opposition parties in Belgium as challenger or mainstream parties and explain their behaviour on the basis of policy-, office- or vote-seeking motives. Our analysis is based on party voting behaviour, elite interviews and an analysis of the main plenary debates.


Britt Vande Walle
Britt Vande Walle is PhD Researcher at the KU Leuven Public Governance Instituted, funded by a FWO fellowship ‘Fundamental Research’. Her research focuses on comparative politics, political parties, and political party think tanks. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9594-9897.

Wouter Wolfs
Wouter Wolfs is Senior Researcher at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute. His research interests include the European Union, political finance, legislative studies and political parties. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6214-5972.

Steven Van Hecke
Steven Van Hecke is Associate Professor in Comparative and EU Politics at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute. His research focuses on Europarties, EU institutions and European integration history. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0215-5463.
Article

Access_open Enhanced Contact Rights for Grandparents? A Critical View from Spanish and Catalan Laws

Journal Family & Law, September 2021
Keywords Contact with grandchildren, Best interest of the child, Parental responsibilities
Authors prof. dr. J. Ribot Igualada
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article examines how Spanish and Catalan laws deal with claims of grandparents who seek contact with their grandchildren against the will of one or both parents, and the scope given to their rights. It starts by explaining the content and the goals of the legal reforms enacted in Spain at the beginning of the 21st century to promote grandparents’ interests. Then, it presents the case law developed in the interpretation of the relevant legal rules. The resulting state of the law is assessed, taking into account the interests of all the parties involved (parents, grandparents, and grandchildren). The experience of more than twenty years of application of the specific provisions concerning grandparents’ contact rights sheds light on the impact of giving grandparents stronger legal rights. However, it also prompts the question of whether this legislative choice might have brought about useless and potentially harmful litigation.


prof. dr. J. Ribot Igualada
Jordi Ribot Igualada is Professor of Civil Law at the Institute of European and Comparative Law and Director of the Institute of European and Comparative Private Law (University of Girona).
Article

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

A Case Study of Vlaams Belang’s Coronablunderboek

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords populism, COVID-19, crisis, discourse
Authors Jens Meijen
AbstractAuthor's information

    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

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords political leadership, crisis, care, Belgium, gendered media coverage
Authors Clémence Deswert
AbstractAuthor's information

    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

Access_open The Resilience of Democracy in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Democratic Compensators in Belgium, the Netherlands and France

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Keywords COVID-19, crisis-management, democratic compensators, exceptionalism
Authors Tom Massart, Thijs Vos, Clara Egger e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since January 2020, European countries have implemented a wide range of restrictions to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet governments have also implemented democratic compensators in order to offset the negative impacts of restrictions. This article aims to account for the variation of their use between Belgium, the Netherlands and France. We analyse three drivers: the strength of counterpowers, the ruling parties’ ideological leanings and political support. Building on an original data set, our results distinguish between embedded and ad hoc compensators. We find that ad hoc compensators are championed mainly by counterpowers, but also by ideology of the ruling coalitions in Belgium and the Netherlands and used strategically to maintain political support in France. Evidence on the link between embedded compensators and counterpowers is more ambiguous.


Tom Massart
Tom Massart is a PhD candidate at ULB / CEVIPOL. His research mainly focuses on European economic governance.

Thijs Vos
Thijs Vos is a political scientist and research assistant at Groningen University.

Clara Egger
Clara Egger is assistant professor in international relations at Groningen University. She is currently leading the Exceptius project on Covid19 containment policies in Europe.

Claire Dupuy
Claire Dupuy is professor of comparative politics at UCLouvain. She specializes in comparative public policy with a focus on multilevel governance, federalism and regionalization processes.

Constance Morel-Jean
Constance Morel-Jean is a master’s student at Grenoble-Alpes University. She specialises in the study of political behaviour.

Raul Magni-Berton
Raul Magni-Berton is professor of political science at Grenoble-Alpes University, PACTE research unit. His research mainly focuses on democracy, its institutions and norms.

Sébastian Roché
Sebastian Roché is CNRS Research Professor at Grenoble-Alpes University, PACTE research unit. He specializes in policing and legitimacy studies.
PhD Review

Pragmatic Citizens – A Bottom-Up Perspective on Participatory Politics

PhD by Hannah Werner (KU Leuven and Universiteit van Amsterdam), supervisors: Sofie Marien, Wouter van der Brug & Marc Hooghe

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2021
Authors Anna Kern
Author's information

Anna Kern
Anna Kern is assistant professor at the Department of Political Science at Ghent University, Belgium.

    Deze analyse bespreekt uitvoerig de argumenten van voor- en tegenstanders van het wetsvoorstel ter versoepeling van de Belgische abortuswetgeving (2019-…). Het fel bediscussieerde wetsvoorstel beoogt het zelfbeschikkingsrecht van de zwangere persoon uit te breiden en abortus te destigmatiseren. Door vrijwillige zwangerschapsafbreking als gezondheidszorg te kwalificeren geven de indieners van het wetsvoorstel tevens de voorkeur aan een gezondheidsrechtelijk traject op maat van de zwangere persoon als patiënt. De inkorting van de wachtperiode-en het schrappen van abortusspecifieke informatieverplichtingen geven in die zin blijk van vertrouwen in de zwangere persoon, in het kwalitatief handelen van de zorgverlener en in de waarborgen die het gezondheidsrecht reeds biedt. De wetgever dient met andere woorden uit te maken (1) welke regels hij in de context van abortus nodig acht, (2) of deze regels reeds worden gewaarborgd door de algemene gezondheidswetten- en deontologie, en (3) of de vooropgestelde regels hun doel bereiken. Een uitbreiding van het zelfbeschikkingsrecht van de zwangere persoon wordt tevens bewerkstelligd door de termijnuitbreiding van twaalf naar achttien weken voor abortus op verzoek. Een keuze voor een termijn is steeds in zekere mate willekeurig, doch reflecteert een beleidsethische keuze waarbij wordt gezocht naar een evenwicht tussen de bescherming van ongeboren leven en het zelfbeschikkingsrecht van de zwangere persoon. Praktische bekommernissen vormen hierbij geen fundamenteel bezwaar tegen een termijnuitbreiding maar dienen, in overleg met de betrokken sector, te worden geanticipeerd en maximaal te worden opgevangen door middel van organisatorische (niet-noodzakelijk juridische) initiatieven. Ten slotte beogen de indieners van het wetsvoorstel opheffing van alle strafsancties voor vrijwillige zwangerschapsafbreking. Op rechtstheoretisch vlak blijven echter vragen bestaan omtrent de manier waarop dit voorstel een volledige depenalisering doorvoert. Hoewel het tuchtrecht enige rol kan spelen bij gebrek aan strafsancties, creëert de vooropgestelde depenalisering van ongeoorloofde zwangerschapsafbreking door een arts een rechtsonzekere situatie.
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    This analysis extensively discusses the arguments of supporters and opponents of the legislative proposal to relax the Belgian abortion legislation (2019-…). The heavily debated proposal primarily aims to expand the pregnant person’s right to self-determination and to destigmatise abortion. By qualifying consensual termination of pregnancy as health care, the supporters of the proposal also prioritise an individualised, health-oriented approach towards the pregnant person as patient. In the same vein, the diminished waiting period and the removal of abortion-specific information duties express trust in the pregnant person, in the qualitative conduct of the health care provider, and in the guarantees that the health law already provides. In other words, the legislator must determine 1) which regulations it deems necessary in the context of abortion, 2) whether these regulations are already guaranteed by general health laws and ethics, and 3) whether the proposed regulations achieve their intended purpose. An expansion of the pregnant person’s right to self-determination is also achieved by the extension from twelve to eighteen weeks as a limit for abortion on request. Although a time limit is always arbitrary to some extent, it mainly reflects a policy-ethical decision in which a balance is sought between the protection of unborn life and the pregnant person’s right to self-determination. Practical concerns do not establish a fundamental objection to the extension of such limit, but must, in consultation with the medical profession, be anticipated and dealt with as much as possible by means of organisational (not necessarily legal) initiatives. Finally, the proposal lifts all criminal sanctions currently applicable to consensual termination of pregnancy. On a legal-theoretical level, however, questions remain about the way in which the proposal implements full depenalisation. Although disciplinary law can play some role in the absence of criminal sanctions, the depenalisation of unlawful termination of pregnancy by a health care professional produces legal uncertainty.


F. De Meyer
Fien De Meyer doet doctoraatsonderzoek naar regelgeving inzake abortus aan de Universiteit van Antwerpen.

C. De Mulder
Charlotte De Mulder doet doctoraatsonderzoek naar het statuut van ongeboren leven aan de Universiteit van Antwerpen.
Article

The Reform of Contract Rules in China’s New Civil Code

Successes or Pitfalls

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China, Contracts of the Civil Code, Chinese legal system, legislative history
Authors Peng Guo and Linxuan Li
AbstractAuthor's information

    The Civil Code of the People’s Republic of China (Civil Code) came into force on 1 January 2021. Book III on Contracts of the Civil Code has adopted significant changes compared to the old Chinese Contract Law (Contract Law). This article provides a comprehensive and systemic analysis of those changes from structure to content, from legislative technics to values underpinning the Civil Code. It evaluates all the factors in the context of the development of Chinese society, Chinese culture and Chinese legal system.
    This article first outlines the historical background of the development of the Contract Law and the Civil Code. It then moves on to compare the Civil Code and the Contract Law, highlighting the changes in structure, the incorporation of new provisions and the amendments to old provisions in light of contemporary Chinese society and culture. Finally, it argues that the Civil Code is a significant milestone in China’s legislative history; that it reflects the legislative experience and judicial practice in China; that it adds provisions which are innovative and of Chinese characteristics to meet the needs of China’s changing society and legal system; and that it keeps pace with the development of the global law reform and harmonization.


Peng Guo
Peng Guo is a Lecturer in Law, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University, Australia.

Linxuan Li
Linxuan Li, LL.M. University of International Business and Economics, LL.B. Shandong University, China.
Article

Democratic Scrutiny of COVID-19 Laws

Are Parliamentary Committees Up to the Job?

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords parliament, scrutiny, committees, COVID-19, rights, legislation, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom
Authors Sarah Moulds
AbstractAuthor's information

    In response to the complex and potentially devastating threat posed by COVID-19, parliaments around the world have transferred unprecedented powers to executive governments and their agencies (Edgar, ‘Law-making in a Crisis’, 2020), often with the full support of the communities they represent. These laws were passed within days, sometimes hours, with limited safeguards and a heavy reliance on sunsetting provisions, some of which are dependent on the pandemic being officially called to an end. While parliaments themselves have suspended or reduced sitting days (Twomey, ‘A Virtual Australian Parliament is Possible’, 2020), parliamentary committees have emerged as the forum of choice when it comes to providing some form of parliamentary oversight of executive action.
    This article aims to evaluate the capacity of parliamentary committees established within the Australian, New Zealand (NZ) and United Kingdom (UK) parliaments to effectively scrutinize and review governments’ responses to COVID-19. It does this by comparing the legal framework underpinning the relevant committees in each jurisdiction and examining the work of these committees with a view to offering some preliminary views as to their impact on the shape of the laws made in response to COVID-19 in those jurisdictions. The article concludes by offering some preliminary observations about the scrutiny capacity of the parliamentary committee systems in Australia, NZ and the UK in the context of emergency lawmaking and flags areas for further research, evaluation and reform.


Sarah Moulds
Dr. Sarah Moulds, University of South Australia.
Article

Compensation for Victims of Disasters

A Comparative Law and Economic Perspective

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords victim compensation, disaster risk reduction, government relief, insurance, moral hazard, public private partnership
Authors Qihao He and Michael Faure
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article provides a critical analysis of the compensation awarded for victims of disasters. First, general guiding principles of compensation are discussed. Next, various ways of government provided victim compensation, both during the disaster and ex post are critically reviewed. Then the article focuses on ex ante insurance mechanisms for victim compensation, arguing that insurance can play a role in disaster risk reduction. Finally, the article explains how the government can cooperate with insurers in a public-private partnership for victim compensation, thus facilitating the availability of disaster insurance.


Qihao He
Qihao He is Associate Professor of Law, China University of Political Science and Law, College of Comparative Law. Beijing, China. Qihao He acknowledges the financial support of China Ministry of Education Research Program on Climate Change and Insurance (No. 18YJC820024), and Comparative Private Law Innovation Project of CUPL (No. 18CXTD05).

Michael Faure
Michael Faure is Michael G. Faure, Professor of Comparative and International Environmental Law, Maastricht University, and Professor of Comparative Private Law and Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The authors thank the participants in the symposium of Regulating Disasters through Private and Public Law: Compensation and Policy held in University of Haifa, and the comments from Suha Ballan.
Article

Consensual Accommodation of Sharia Law and Courts in Greece

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords choice architecture, law reform, Molla Sali v. Greece, Mufti, multicultural accommodation, Muslim minority, nomoi group, Sharia law
Authors Nikos Koumoutzis
AbstractAuthor's information

    Having been exempted from a massive population exchange that took place between Greece and Turkey under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), the Muslim minority of Western Thrace enjoys ever since a special status providing for the application of the Sharia law in family and succession matters, as well as the jurisdiction of the Mufti for the resolution of relevant disputes. A reform introduced by Law 4511/2018 marks a watershed moment in this long history. From now on, the Sharia law and the Mufti cease to be mandatory; their intervention requires the consent of the members of the minority, who also have the alternative to subject to the civil law and courts. This article tries to explore key features of the new model providing for an accommodation of the Muslim personal legal system based on choice. It focuses on the technique employed to structure the right of choice, on the proper ways for the exercise of choice, on the possibilities offered (or not) to make a partial choice only and revoke a previously made choice. In the end, a further question is raised, concerning how effective the right of choice may prove in the hands of women insiders, given that these are the most likely to experience pressure to demonstrate loyalty and not ignore the traditions and values – including the nomos – of their collective.


Nikos Koumoutzis
Nikos Koumoutzis is Associate Professor Law School at the University of Nicosia, ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4362-2320
Article

Access_open Approach with Caution

Sunset Clauses as Safeguards of Democracy?

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2021
Keywords emergency legislation, sunset clauses, post-legislative review, COVID-19
Authors Sean Molloy
AbstractAuthor's information

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders across the globe scrambled to adopt emergency legislation. Amongst other things, these measures gave significant powers to governments in order to curb the spreading of a virus, which has shown itself to be both indiscriminate and deadly. Nevertheless, exceptional measures, however necessary in the short term, can have adverse consequences both on the enjoyment of human rights specifically and democracy more generally. Not only are liberties severely restricted and normal processes of democratic deliberation and accountability constrained but the duration of exceptional powers is also often unclear. One potentially ameliorating measure is the use of sunset clauses: dispositions that determine the expiry of a law or regulation within a predetermined period unless a review determines that there are reasons for extension. The article argues that without effective review processes, far from safeguarding rights and limiting state power, sunset clauses can be utilized to facilitate the transferring of emergency powers whilst failing to guarantee the very problems of normalized emergency they are included to prevent. Thus, sunset clauses and the review processes that attach to them should be approached with caution.


Sean Molloy
Dr Sean Molloy is a Lecturer in Law at Northumbria University.
Article

Access_open Invisible before the law

The legal position of persons with intellectual disabilities under the Dutch Care and Compulsion Act (Wzd) in light of Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Journal Family & Law, June 2021
Keywords dicrimination, guardianship, incapacitated adults, legal (in)capacity
Authors F. Schuthof LLM
AbstractAuthor's information

    In the Netherlands, the use of involuntary treatment in the mental health care sector is governed by the Dutch Care and Compulsion Act (Wzd). This study examines the legal position of persons with intellectual disabilities under this Act. The Wzd is analyzed in light of the human rights standards of Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The findings of this study show that the Wzd does not meet the standards of Article 12 in several cases. The Wzd does not recognize the legal capacity of persons with intellectual disabilities, it continues to allow for substituted decision-making and support measures are not complemented by adequate safeguards. From a theoretical point of view, an imbalance between the protection of and the respect for the autonomy of persons with intellectual disabilities can be observed. This article formulates several recommendations in order to restore this balance.
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    De Nederlandse Wet zorg en dwang (Wzd) ziet toe op de rechten van mensen met een verstandelijke beperking bij onvrijwillige zorg of onvrijwillige opname. Dit artikel onderzoekt de juridische positie van mensen met een verstandelijke beperking ten aanzien van deze wet. De Wzd wordt geanalyseerd in relatie tot artikel 12 van het Verdrag inzake de Rechten van Personen met een Handicap (VRPH). De bevindingen van dit onderzoek laten zien dat de Wzd in verschillende gevallen niet voldoet aan de normen van artikel 12 VRPH. Zo wordt onder andere de handelingsbekwaamheid, ofwel ‘legal capacity’, van mensen met een verstandelijke beperking niet erkend en blijft plaatsvervangende besluitvorming mogelijk. Vanuit theoretisch oogpunt is er sprake van een disbalans tussen de bescherming van en het respect voor de autonomie van mensen met een verstandelijke beperking. Dit artikel doet daarom meerdere aanbevelingen om dit evenwicht te herstellen.


F. Schuthof LLM
Fiore Schuthof conducts research into better empowerment and protection of the elderly as a PhD student at Utrecht University (UU).
Article

Access_open We need to talk to Martha

Or: The desirability of introducing simple adoption as an option for long-term foster children in The Netherlands

Journal Family & Law, June 2021
Keywords Adoption, foster care, guardianship, parental responsibility, supervision orders for minors
Authors mr. dr. M.J. Vonk and dr. G.C.A.M. Ruitenberg
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article you will be introduced to Martha. Martha will turn eighteen in a couple of weeks and is afraid of losing her foster family when she becomes an adult (I). You will be taken on a journey through the Dutch child protection system and recent research on the desirability of forging an additional legal instrument, such as the introduction of simple adoption, for children like Martha and her two families. The following questions will be answered: How do children like Martha end up in a foster family (II)? Who is responsible or who makes decisions about Martha’s care and future and what problems may occur? Five possible situations in long-term foster care will be discussed in this context on the basis of current law and research (III). Would simple adoption (eenvoudige adoptie) solve some of the problems discussed in the earlier section and thus be a feasible and desirable option for long-term foster children and their foster parents (IV)? At the end of this journey you will be invited to take a brief glance into the future in the hope that Martha’s voice will be heard (V).
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    In dit artikel stellen we u voor aan Martha. Martha wordt over een paar weken achttien en is bang haar pleeggezin kwijt te raken als ze meerderjarig wordt. Aan de hand van het verhaal van Martha nemen we u mee op een reis langs het Nederlandse jeugdbeschermingsstelstel en langs recent onderzoek naar de wenselijkheid van de introductie van een nieuwe juridische mogelijkheid waarmee een band tussen Martha en haar beide families kan worden gevestigd: eenvoudige adoptie. De volgende vragen worden daarbij beantwoord: Hoe komen kinderen zoals Martha in een pleeggezin terecht? Wie is verantwoordelijk voor of mag beslissingen nemen over Martha’s opvoeding en toekomst en wat voor problemen kunnen zich daarbij voordoen? Zou eenvoudige adoptie een oplossing bieden voor een aantal van de problemen die worden besproken en daarmee een wenselijke oplossing zijn voor langdurige pleegkinderen en hun pleeggezinnen? Aan het einde van deze reis werpen we een korte blik op de toekomst in de hoop dat de stem van Martha gehoord zal worden.


mr. dr. M.J. Vonk
Machteld Vonk is associate professor at the Amsterdam Center for Family Law of the Private Law Department at VU University Amsterdam.

dr. G.C.A.M. Ruitenberg
Geeske Ruitenberg is assistant professor at the Amsterdam Center for Family Law of the Private Law Department at the VU University Amsterdam.
Article

Corporate Mediation and Company Law

State of the Art, Recent Trends and New Opportunities

Journal Corporate Mediation Journal, Issue 1 2021
Keywords corporate dispute, enforcement, mediation clause, stakeholders, sustainability, sustainable development
Authors Valentina Allotti
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article describes the legal framework on corporate mediation in Italy with a particular focus on the effects of the mediation clauses included in company by-laws. The available data on the use of corporate mediation indicate that such clauses are not commonly used. There is still resistance among the parties in a dispute to engage in dialogue through mediation, not only where corporate disputes are concerned. The author suggests that one way to expand the use of mediation would be to promote the introduction of mediation clauses in the articles of association of companies. She also suggests that recent trends in company law, notably the emergence of sustainability issues, related to the impact of business activity on the environment and society, and more broadly on human rights, may create new opportunities for the use of mediation to prevent and solve corporate-related disputes.


Valentina Allotti
Valentina Allotti is a Senior Legal Policy Officer, Capital Markets and Listed Companies Area, Assonime. Views expressed by the author are her own and do not necessarily represent those of Assonime.
Article

The Impact of VAAs on Vote Switching at the 2019 Belgian Legislative Elections

More Switchers, but Making Their Own Choices

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2021
Keywords voting advice applications, vote switching, vote choice, elections and electoral behaviour, voters/citizens in Belgium, VAA
Authors David Talukder, Laura Uyttendaele, Isaïa Jennart e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    During electoral campaigns, the use of voting advice applications (VAAs) has become increasingly widespread. Consequently, scholars have examined both the patterns of usage and their effects on voting behaviour. However, existing studies lead to conflicting findings. In this article, we take a closer look at the effect of De Stemtest/Test électoral (a VAA developed by academics from the University of Louvain and the University of Antwerp, in partnership with Belgian media partners) on vote switching. More specifically, we divide this latter question into two sub-questions: (1) What is the impact of a (dis)confirming advice from the VAA on vote switching? (2) Do VAA users follow the voting advice provided by the VAA? Our study shows that receiving a disconfirming advice from the VAA increases the probability of users to switch their vote choice.


David Talukder
David Talukder is a PhD candidate at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium). He works within the research project “Reforming Representative Democracy”. His main research interests are democratic innovations, political representation, and democratic reforms.

Laura Uyttendaele
Laura Uyttendaele is a PhD candidate at the University of Louvain (UCLouvain, Belgium). Her main research interests are Voting Advice Applications, Youth & politics, political attitudes and behaviours, and experimental methods.

Isaïa Jennart
Isaïa Jennart is a PhD candidate (Universiteit Antwerpen & VUB, Belgium) interested in public opinion, electoral campaigns, voting behaviour, Voting Advice Applications and political knowledge. He mainly studies citizens’ knowledge of parties’ issue positions.

Benoît Rihoux
Benoît Rihoux is full professor in political science at the University of Louvain (UCLouvain, Belgium). His research covers comparative methods (especially QCA) as well as diverse topics in comparative politics, political organizations and political behaviour.
Article

Access_open An Actor Approach to Mediatization

Linking Politicians’ Media Perceptions, Communication Behaviour and Appearances in the News

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2021
Keywords mediatization, politicians, news media, media perceptions, news management
Authors Pauline Ketelaars and Peter Van Aelst
AbstractAuthor's information

    In the light of the broader debate on the mediatization of politics, this study wants to better understand how the media perceptions and media behaviour of politicians are related to their appearances in the news. We opt for an innovative actor-centred approach to actually measure the views and actions of individual politicians. We combine surveys conducted with 142 Belgian representatives with data on politicians’ external communication behaviour and on their appearances in television news, newspapers and news websites. The results show that media behaviour is not so much related to beliefs of media importance. We do find a significant positive relationship between strategic media behaviour and media attention suggesting that politicians who put in more effort appear more often in various news media. However, this positive relationship depends on the specific form of strategic communication and the political position of the legislator. Our study adds to the mediatization literature by showing how and when politicians are successful in obtaining media attention.


Pauline Ketelaars
Pauline Ketelaars was a postdoctoral researcher of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (FWO). Her main research interests are political communication and social movements.

Peter Van Aelst
Peter Van Aelst is a research professor at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp and a founding member of the research group ‘Media, Movements and Politics’ (M2P). His research focuses on political communication. Corresponding author: peter.vanaelst@uantwerpen.be.
Article

Interest Representation in Belgium

Mapping the Size and Diversity of an Interest Group Population in a Multi-layered Neo-corporatist Polity

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2021
Keywords interest groups, advocacy, access, advisory councils, media attention
Authors Evelien Willems, Jan Beyers and Frederik Heylen
AbstractAuthor's information

    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.
Research Note

Caretaker Cabinets in Belgium

A New Measurement and Typology

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2021
Keywords caretaker government, Belgium, cabinets, political crisis
Authors Régis Dandoy and Lorenzo Terrière
AbstractAuthor's information

    Belgium is probably the world’s best known case of where caretaker governments reside. Yet a clear scholarly definition and measurement of this concept is missing. Based on a detailed analysis of the Belgian federal cabinets, this research note explores the main characteristics and measures the length of the various caretaker periods. We find that Belgium was governed for no less than 1,485 days by a caretaker government between 2007 and 2020, which equals more than four full calendar years. This research note also presents a novel typology of caretaker periods based on the institutional and political practice within the Belgian legislative and executive branches. This typology can be used to assess caretaker periods at other levels of government as well as in other countries in order to improve our understanding of the many ‘faces’ that a caretaker government can take on.


Régis Dandoy
Régis Dandoy is professor in political science at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and visiting research fellow and guest lecturer at the University of Brussels, Belgium. His main research interests include comparative politics, federalism, voting behaviour, election results, electronic and internet voting and election observation.

Lorenzo Terrière
Lorenzo Terrière is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at Ghent University. His doctoral research is focused on how (regionalist) parties deal with the strategic issue of government participation.
Article

Access_open Text-mining for Lawyers: How Machine Learning Techniques Can Advance our Understanding of Legal Discourse

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 1 2021
Keywords text mining, machine learning, law, natural language processing
Authors Arthur Dyevre
AbstractAuthor's information

    Many questions facing legal scholars and practitioners can be answered only by analysing and interrogating large collections of legal documents: statutes, treaties, judicial decisions and law review articles. I survey a range of novel techniques in machine learning and natural language processing – including topic modelling, word embeddings and transfer learning – that can be applied to the large-scale investigation of legal texts


Arthur Dyevre
Arthur Dyevre is Professor at the KU Leuven Centre for Empirical Jurisprudence, Leuven, Belgium. arthur.dyevre@kuleuven.be.
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