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Split Offer and Homogeneous Response in Belgium

The Conceptual and Empirical Limitations of (De)Nationalization

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2019
Keywords (de-)nationalization, voting behaviour, party offer, voter response, methodological nationalism
Authors Luana Russo, Kris Deschouwer and Tom Verthé
AbstractAuthor's information

    By examining the Belgian case, this article aims to show that methodological nationalism is strongly present in the literature on nationalization of party offer and voting behaviour. In nationalization studies, Belgium is often presented as a typical example of a denationalized country. This is true for the party offer, as it is de facto split between the two language groups since the 1980s, and therefore also voter response at the national level. However, voter response within each separate subnational party system is very homogeneous and shows interesting differences between these party systems that inform us about important electoral dynamics. We argue, on the basis of our results, that rather than stretching the concept of nationalization, it is preferable and justified to treat the concepts of nationalization of the party offer and homogenization of voter response as analytically distinct and not as two sides of the same coin.


Luana Russo
Luana Russo, Maastricht University.

Kris Deschouwer
Kris Deschouwer, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Tom Verthé
Tom Verthé, Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Article

Samen naar de kiezer

De vorming van pre-electorale allianties tussen CD&V en N-VA en tussen SP.a en Groen! bij de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen van 2006

Journal Res Publica, Issue 4 2011
Keywords political parties, pre-electoral alliances, party strategies, local politics
Authors Tom Verthé and Kris Deschouwer
AbstractAuthor's information

    Political parties normally compete in elections individually. Yet, sometimes they join forces and form pre-electoral alliances. This rather unusual strategy contains both costs and benefits. In this article we try to identify those costs and benefits by opening up the black box of internal party decision making in considering pre-electoral alliance formation. We start by assuming that parties of different electoral sizes could have different motives to face the voter as one electoral list. Through in-depth interviews at the local level in Flanders, we have studied pre-electoral alliance formation for the municipal elections in 2006. We find that the arguments of large parties mainly focus on becoming the leading formation and thus claiming the initiative in coalition formation. Small parties have more varied motives for forming or failing to form a pre-electoral alliance.


Tom Verthé
Tom Verthé is aspirant van het Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen en doctoraatsstudent in de Vakgroep Politieke Wetenschappen van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Hij werkt over politieke partijen en verkiezingen en in het bijzonder over preelectorale alliantievorming.

Kris Deschouwer
Kris Deschouwer is onderzoeksprofessor in de Vakgroep Politieke Wetenschappen van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Hij werkt over politieke partijen, verkiezingen, federalisme en regionalisme en politieke besluitvorming in verdeelde samenlevingen.

    In national elections the results tend to become more ‘nationalized’: a homogeneous party offer all over the territory, less variation in the results per constituency and more homogeneous electoral swings. This article investigates whether this nationalization can also be witnessed at local elections. It focuses on two indicators: the party offer and the voting behaviour. The party offer is the presence of the national parties on the local ballot paper, while the voting behaviour looks at patterns of homogeneity across the municipalities.
    The answer to the question of nationalization is mixed. The Flemish and Walloon local elections display the same long-term trend as the national elections, but they keep their own local character. The heterogeneity of the local party offer clearly demonstrates the local specificity of the local elections, and consequently the voting behaviour also differs from the voting behaviour at national elections. We also find that the local elections in Wallonia are less nationalized than in Flanders.
    Although the local character of the local elections remains important, the newer parties – Ecolo and Groen! – show until 2000 a clear trend towards nationalization. Especially the extreme right Vlaams Belang shows positive scores on all indicators of nationalization since its first local appearance in 1982.


Fanny Wille
Fanny Wille is verbonden als assistent/vorser aan de Vakgroep Politieke Wetenschappen en de Vakgroep Micro-economics of the Profit and Non-Profit Sectors aan de Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Zij doet onderzoek naar lokale coalitievorming.

Kris Deschouwer
Kris Deschouwer is gewoon hoogleraar aan de Vakgroep Politieke Wetenschappen van de Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Hij doet onderzoek naar politieke vertegenwoordiging in systemen met een complexe institutionele context.
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