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Journal Res Publica x Year 1989 x Category Article x

    Within the Belgian political system political issues are hard to deal with. The institutions do not provide a problem-solving mechanism: no referendum, no direct election of a one-party cabinet. Moreover, electoral campaigns usually involve a lot of heterogeneous issues and almost never focus upon a single one. Active political participation of citizens is, by definition, selective and, compared with electoral participation, limited, although, the number of people taking part in a political demonstration is sometimes considerable. An investigation of the Belgian political elite shows that active political participation, sparked off by a single issue, can be considered as one of the most polyarchie types of political decision-making in Belgium. This involves an increase of tension and conflict, a slowing down of the process of decision-making and a selective accessibility to this type of participation. Belgian politicians try to avoid these difficulties by either opting for non-decision or consociational politics.

Wilfried Dewachter

    The classical "western" model of modernization assumes that economie development in the end will lead to a more uniform world of political democracies in free market economies. However, this western model turns out to be too deterministic for non-western countries. A selective review of the theoretical and empirical literature on the question learns that the western model runs into problems because it does not make a clear distinction between preconditions for political democratization and demands posed by modernization. Empirical studies show, contrary to the western model logic, that there is no direct positive relationship between economie growth and political democratization. Cultural and structural thresholds may inhibit democratization: an intolerant culture, absence of a free market economy, external influences, a history of constantly wavering political regimes. As concerns the demands posed by modernization, modern political regimes tend to develop common characteristics, one of them being the design ofmore participatory structures and procedures. But there is no theoretical evidence whatsoever of the western model being the final destination for all modernizing societies.

Liesbet Hooghe

    On 17 April 1962, Genera! de Gaulle's proposal to establish a political union between the six EC Member States, better known as the 'Fouchet Proposal', was vetoed by Belgium and The Netherlands who made their further support dependent on British participation in the negotiations on a political union. This article examines the position of Belgium, represented by its Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. P-H. Spaak and more particularly its evolution from a rather favourable position to a rejection of the project. The contradictory Belgian demand for a more supranational political union at the same time as British membership can be considered in the light of Belgium's wish to promote both the process of European integration and the principle of Atlantic solidarity, the basis of its security. The article describes how the final deathblow to the negotiations was not given by Belgium and The Netherlands but by the French veto of British accession to the EC and the signing of the Franco-German Cooperation Treaty of Elysee in ]anuary 1963.

Sophie Vanhoonacker

Informatiegaring en meningsuiting in de pers

enkele bedenkingen over de actualiteit van het Belgisch persrecht

Journal Res Publica, Issue 4 1989
Authors Jan Ceuleers

    Belgian Constitution needs a face-lifting. The right of information, both active and passive, must be recognized, along with a prohibition ofcensorship; this right implies the right of free communication and freedom of the media. It also implies the abolition of the notion press-delict and of special administration of criminal law. Legislation too has to be actualized: expansion of the right of answer to all means of communication. Furthermore, introduction of the duty of speech for anyone who holds information that may concern the community. Finally, the need for a law protecting the privacy of the citizen, including protection from aggressive use and misuse of data banks, spying pratices and suchlike.

Jan Ceuleers

Les élections européennes de 1989

Analyse des résultats pour la Belgique

Journal Res Publica, Issue 4 1989
Authors William Fraeys

    Organized for the third time, the elections for the European Parliament at direct universal suffrage, in June 1989, had the following main characteristics: a still weak turnout, a progress for the socialist parties in most countries, a rather distinct rise of the Environmentalists and an indisputable rise of some far-right parties. In Belgium, the results cannot be compared exclusively with those of the 1984 European election. They must be seen in the continuation of the 1985 and 1987 general elections. Then, the main characteristics are as follows: a near disappearance of the farleft lists associated with the absence of communist lists, a very marked rise of the Environmentalists, stronger in the Walloon Region than in Flanders, a progress for the Christian lists, especially for the C.V.P. in the Flemish districts, a setback for the Flemisch Socialists and a progress for the French-speaking Socialists in comparison with the 1984 poll. This progress, however, was not important enough as to enable them to regain their 1987 level. The Liberals are experiencing a setback compared with 1987 in the three regions of the country and, as far as the P.R.L. is concerned, even in comparison with 1984 and 1985. The Volksunie is suffering a serious setback, that is certainly benefitting to the Vlaams Blok, which, however, is also attracting voters from different political origins on issues similar to those of the far right. The analysis also contains a comparison between the results of the European election and those of the election for the Council of the Brussels-Capital Region, in a set of three districts where the voters were exactly the same.

William Fraeys

De gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 9 oktober 1988

Analyse van de resultaten

Journal Res Publica, Issue 3 1989
Authors Johan Ackaert

    In the Flemish region the greatest losers are the Flemish nationalists VU and the Socialist Party, followed by de christian-democrats of the CVP. The liberal party PVV, the ecologist AGALEV and the extreme right-wing Vlaams Blok (particularly in the city ofAntwerp) are the winners. The results of the Walloon region show a gain for the socialists (PS), christian-democrats (PSC) and the ecologists (ECOLO) and a sligtly liberal (PRL) recede. The high number of winners is caused by the disapearrance of the socialist-Walloon nationalist alliances and the anti-tax party UDR T. Another important factor is the fall in of the walloon nationalist party RW. The elections in the Brussels region are characterized by the further set-back of the once so strong French-speaking party FDF. The three traditional political families and the ecologists benefit by this decline. In Flanders the christian-democrats and the socialists profit by their participation in the boards of mayor and aldermen (the local majorities), in the Walloons the socialists. The data concerning the profits by this participations show no evidence for the other parties.

Johan Ackaert

Belgian politics in 1988

Journal Res Publica, Issue 3 1989
Authors Ivan Couttenier

    During the first Jour months of 1988, Belgium witnessed the painstaking formation of the Martens VIII center-left Cabinet. In October 1987, the Christian Democratic-Liberal Martens VI Cabinet had been forced to resign over the perennial Fourons affairs. After the parliamentary elections of December 1987 which had resulted in a Socialist victory, the center-left Martens VIII Cabinet wassworn in on May 9, 1989, marking the end of a political crisis which had lasted 147 days; i.e., the longest crisis in Belgian history. During the remaining months of 1988, the new Government sought parliamentary approval for its ambitious constitutional reform program, having very little time left for continuing the economie recovery policy started under the Martens VI Cabinet. During the second half of 1988, relations between Belgium and Zaire deteriorated.

Ivan Couttenier

Mieke Verminck

Mark Deweerdt

Mieke Verminck

Editor Publica

Erwin Das

Bibliographie de l'année politique 1988

Journal Res Publica, Issue 3 1989
Authors Wladimir S. Plavsic

Wladimir S. Plavsic

Editor Publica

    During the last years the mass media have paid less and less attention to parliamentary activities. That is so because the real decision making, the real power, has shifted from the legislature to the executive. There are also other reasons for the declining interest in parliament: its complicated functioning, the limited interest of parliament in topical subjects, the often lengthy and technical debates. Parliament and mass media could, however, try to bridge the gap between eachother, e.g. by broadcasting special programmes on parliamentary activities. This might give the parliament a chance to reconquer a portion of its lost power. However, it remains to be proved that there is a genuine political willingness to restore the legislature as the dominant political power centre. The mass media cannot and may not be a party to this conflict. They can only be a tool.

Jos Bouveroux

    Untill recently the primary emphasis of the budget of the Belgian State was on formal controls of spending. The detailed classification of objects of expenditure was the main control mechanism. The growing needs for managerial control on the proliferation of public organisations turned intrest of the government executive to concerns with the efficient performance of government activities. Program budgeting was introduced as a technical solution for the public management. Legislative action resulting in an expenditure change has become more and more exceptional and shows how extraordinaly skillful must be those who wish to penetrate this budgetary system from outside the executive. Parliament thus remained silent in this debate. However, when linked with the definition of social objectives, budgeting by outputs could be a vehicle for restoring the active role of the legislature in the budgetary process. The general idea is to gain control on budgetary decisions by focusing on the end products of public organisations and on governemental objectives instead of on inputs as personnel, equipment or maintenance. By effective goalsetting, the Belgian Parliament could restore its budgetary authority.

Georges Stienlet

    The federalisation of the Belgian state requires a rethinking of the legislature, especially of the Senate. A 'Second Chamber' seems a necessary prerequisite for a federal system. It usually serves as a forum of representation of the different components of the federation, deliberation and national cohesion. In the future the Senate could also become closer involved into European politics. As far as the specific redrawing of the powers of the new Senate concerns, opinions differ considerably. Firstly, nearly all parties agree the Senate should have the same powers as the House of Representatives to revise the Constitution and laws on the political institutions. Secondly, there is far less unanimity on the question whether the control powers of the Senate should be as extensive as the House of Representatives. In the current state reform the Senate retains its right of investigation. Thirdly, the role that the Senate and the House of Representativesin the 'ordinary' legislative work can play has to be well defined. There are many ways to redistribute the legislative power. Whatever the principle will be, it is essential to work out a reasonable arbitration procedure between the two chambers. Fourthly, the Senate should retain its power to propose candidatures for the high courts and to act together with the House of Representatives in matters of the monarchy. Fifthly, the Senate should grow into the principal body of mediation for conflicts between the different components of the federal state. The last point of discussion in the reform of the Senate is its future composition. Guiding principles should be: a certain allegiance between the councils of regions and communities and the national Senate, an expression of political experience, no increase of the total number of representatives and a fair representation of the minorities.

Frank Swaelen

François Perin

    Most attempts at parliamentary reform in Belgium are prompted by the desire to support a Parliament which is being marginalized by political actors such as the government and the parties. These efforts are inspired by traditional constitutional thinking. Initially parliaments were designed as democratie bodies which should challenge the aristocratie government. Nowadays, parliament has quite another function. It has to facilitate the political information and to counteract the incompetence (and alienation) of citizens who are willing but unable to participate in an increasingly complex political system. Reform should aim at restoring the significance ofpublic debates in parliament. In order to be informative these debates should focus on important issues of the political agenda and catch the attention of the general public. Within the constraints of our political system it should be possible to upgrade the early debates on budget allocations and the late debates on the evaluation of public policy effectiveness.

Guido Dierickx

    Opening up as many sources of information as possible is particularly conducive to the development of workable policy plans and to efficient decision-making in a democratic political system. It follows that MPs can greatly benefit from using computerized information systems. As far as the parliamentary activities are concerned, we can distinguish between internal and external information flow. The contents of the parliamentary documents, the procedure for processing them and the information on the parliamentary control are part of the internal information flow. The external information on the other hand refers to the relations between the MPs and the executive and the judiciary branches, supranational and international institutions as well as the library. To date, the House of Representatives has been the only assembly that has set up a computerized information system. The data bases of the House comprise: the parliamentary documents and the state of advancement of all proceedings linked to these documents (bath in the House and in the Senate) until the publication of the text in the official state journal. Other databases relate to the parliamentary control: interpellations, motions, oral questions and the entire text of the written parliamentary questions. The record of the House will also be stored in a data base giving references. The library fund has been integrated in the interlibrary network DOBIS-LIBIS. A data base was also designed for the press information, and linked to an image processing system. What has been realized in the House to date must also be feasible for the other parliamentary assemblies. Viewed from that perspective, it seems advisable that data bases be centralized in one parliamentary information DP centre. Access to this centre should be particulary user-friendly and uniform, so much so that all MPs can make maximum use of it. The system set up by the House meets with an ever increasing demand from other possible users. In this context, attention should be drawn to the interconnection of this system with other parliamentary assemblies, the extension of the system to other users in the House ofthe MPs and the external access to the system via the telephone network: direct access for the universities, and for certain public and private institutions and individual MPs, and the BISTEL and/ or VIDEOTEX access. The majority of the public data bases linked to the telephone network can be interrogated via the BISTEL system, hut many interesting applications are not accessible via the telephone network as they function in closed circuits. Opening up data bases by linking them to the telephone network, implies that the problem of cost and privacy be carefully examined. As to privacy, we should reflect on the public or confidential character of the data and its consequences, on safeguarding the information stored in the system and on the evolution ofcommunications technology from the perspective of a continental European communications network.

Louis Vanvelthoven
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