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Article

Getting Party Activists on Local Lists

How Dutch Local Party Branches Perform Their Recruitment Function

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2020
Keywords municipal politics, political parties, candidate lists, local party branches, recruitment
Authors Simon Otjes, Marcel Boogers and Gerrit Voerman
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article examines what explains the performance of Dutch local party branches in the recruitment of candidates for municipal councils. Fielding a list of candidates is the most basic function of political parties. In the Netherlands, party branches are under pressure from the low number of party members. To analyse how branches fulfil their role in recruitment, we employ our own survey of the secretaries of party branches held in the run-up to the 2018 municipal election. We find that party membership drives the successful fulfilment of the recruitment function but that, more than the absolute number of members, the crucial factors are how these party members cooperate, the number of active members and the development of this number.


Simon Otjes
Simon Otjes is Assistant Professor of Dutch Politics at Leiden University and researcher at the Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties of Groningen University. His research focuses on political parties, parliaments and public opinion. His articles have appeared in the American Journal of Political Science and in the European Journal of Political Research, among others.

Marcel Boogers
Marcel Boogers is Professor of Innovation and Regional governance at Twente University. His research focuses on the structure of and dynamics within networks of local and regional governments. Boogers combines his position at Twente University with a position as senior advisor at consultancy firm BMC.

Gerrit Voerman
Gerrit Voerman is Professor of the Development and Function of the Dutch and European Party System at Groningen University and Director of its Centre Dutch Political Parties. His research focuses on political parties, their history and their organisation. He is editor of a long-running series of books on Dutch political parties.
Article

Introduction: Parties at the Grassroots

Local Party Branches in the Low Countries

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2020
Authors Bram Wauters, Simon Otjes and Emilie van Haute
Author's information

Bram Wauters
Bram Wauters is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Sciences of Ghent University, where he leads the research group GASPAR. His research interests include political representation, elections and political parties, with specific attention for diversity. He has recently published on these topics in journals such as Party Politics, Political Studies, Politics & Gender and Political Research Quarterly. He is co-editor (with Knut Heidar) of ‘Do parties still represent?’ (Routledge, 2019).

Simon Otjes
Simon Otjes is Assistant Professor of Dutch Politics at Leiden University and researcher at the Documentation Centre Dutch Political Parties of Groningen University. His research focuses on political parties, parliaments and public opinion. His research has appeared in various journals, including American Journal of Political Science and European Journal of Political Research.

Emilie van Haute
Emilie van Haute is Chair of the Department of Political Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and researcher at the Centre d’étude de la vie politique (Cevipol). Her research interests focus on party membership, intra-party dynamics, elections and voting behaviour. Her research has appeared in West European Politics, Party Politics, Electoral Studies, Political Studies or European Political Science. She is co-editor of Acta Politica.
Article

Like Mother, Like Daughter?

Linkage Between Local Branches and Their National Party Headquarters in Belgium

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2020
Keywords local branches, national party headquarters, linkage, integration, multilevel parties
Authors Kristof Steyvers
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article scrutinises local-national linkage in Belgium to better understand territorial power relations in multilevel parties. Drawing on a survey of local chairs of national parties, it adopts an innovative, informal and bottom-up approach. The descriptive analysis reveals two central axes in the morphology of linkage: scope (downward support and upward influence) and surplus (benefits versus costs). However, (the valuation of) this interdependence appears as a matter of degree. The explanatory analysis therefore probes into the effect of macro- (between environments), meso- (between parties) and micro- (within parties) level factors. It demonstrates that variance is explained by different parameters. For scope, differences between parties trump those within them. For surplus, specific differences between parties as well as within them matter. The answer to our guiding question is therefore variegated: it depends on for what and for whom.


Kristof Steyvers
Kristof Steyvers is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science of Ghent University (Belgium). His research is conducted in the Centre for Local Politics, where he focuses on topics such as local political leadership, parties and elections at the local level, local government in multilevel governance and local government reforms (often from a comparative perspective).
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 Online First 2020
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, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Jan Beyers
Jan Beyers, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Frederik Heylen
Frederik Heylen, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.
Article

Still Consociational? Belgian Democracy, 50 Years After ‘The Politics of Accommodation’

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2020
Keywords Belgium, consociational democracy, Lijphart, federalism, ethnolinguistic conflict
Authors Didier Caluwaerts and Min Reuchamps
AbstractAuthor's information

    Despite the enduring importance of Lijphart’s work for understanding democracy in Belgium, the consociational model has come under increasing threat. Owing to deep political crises, decreasing levels of trust in elites, increasing levels of ethnic outbidding and rising demands for democratic reform, it seems as if Lijphart’s model is under siege. Even though the consociational solution proved to be very capable of transforming conflict into cooperation in Belgian politics in the past, the question we raise in this article is whether and to what extent the ‘politics of accommodation’ is still applicable to Belgian democracy. Based on an in-depth analysis of the four institutional (grand coalition, proportionality, mutual veto rights and segmental autonomy) and one cultural (public passivity) criteria, we argue that consociational democracy’s very nature and institutional set-up has largely hollowed out its potential for future conflict management.


Didier Caluwaerts
Didier Caluwaerts is professor of political science at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His research deals with democratic governance and innovation in deeply divided societies. With Min Reuchamps, he has recently published “The Legitimacy of Citizen-led Deliberative Democracy: The G1000 in Belgium” (Routledge, 2018).

Min Reuchamps
Min Reuchamps is professor of political science at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). His teaching and research interests are federalism and multi-level governance, democracy and its different dimensions, relations between language(s) and politics and in particular the role of metaphors, as well as participatory and deliberative methods.
Article

Split-Ticket Voting in Belgium

An Analysis of the Presence and Determinants of Differentiated Voting in the Municipal and Provincial Elections of 2018

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 3 2019
Keywords split-ticket voting, local elections, voting motives, Belgium, PR-system
Authors Tony Valcke and Tom Verhelst
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article tackles the particular issue of split-ticket voting, which has been largely overlooked in Belgian election studies thus far. We contribute to the literature by answering two particular research questions: (1) to what extent and (2) why do voters cast a different vote in the elections for the provincial council as compared to their vote in the elections for the municipal council?
    The article draws on survey data collected via an exit poll in the ‘Belgian Local Elections Study’, a research project conducted by an inter-university team of scholars.
    Our analysis shows that nearly 45% of the total research population cast a split-ticket vote in the local elections of 2018. However, this number drops to one out of four if we only consider a homogenous party landscape at both levels by excluding the numerous votes for ‘local’ lists (which occur mostly at the municipal level). This finding underlines the importance of accounting for the electoral and institutional context of the different electoral arenas in research on split-ticket voting in PR systems. In the Belgian context, split-ticket voting in 2018 also differed between the different parties and regions. Furthermore, it was encouraged by a higher level of education and familiarity with particular candidates. This candidate-centred and strategic voting was matched by party identification and the urban municipal context favouring straight-ticket voting. Other factors such as region, a rural municipal context and preferential voting seemed more relevant to determine voting for local parties than using the instrument of split-ticket votes as such.


Tony Valcke
Tony Valcke is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Ghent University (Belgium). He is a member of the Centre for Local Politics (CLP) and coordinator of the Teacher Training Department. His research, publications and educational activities focus on elections and democratic participation/innovation, (the history of) political institutions and (local) government reform, political elites and leadership, citizenship (education).

Tom Verhelst
Tom Verhelst is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at Ghent University (Belgium) and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Political Science at Maastricht University (the Netherlands). His research focuses on the Europeanisation of local government (with a particular interest for the regulatory mobilisation of local government in EU decision-making processes) and on the role and position of the local council in Belgium and the Netherlands (with a particular interest for local council scrutiny).
Article

Fiscal Consolidation in Federal Belgium

Collective Action Problem and Solutions

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 2 2019
Keywords fiscal consolidation, fiscal policy, federalism, intergovernmental relations, High Council of Finance
Authors Johanna Schnabel
AbstractAuthor's information

    Fiscal consolidation confronts federal states with a collective action problem, especially in federations with a tightly coupled fiscal regime such as Belgium. However, the Belgian federation has successfully solved this collective action problem even though it lacks the political institutions that the literature on dynamic federalism has identified as the main mechanisms through which federal states achieve cooperation across levels of government. This article argues that the regionalization of the party system, on the one hand, and the rationalization of the deficit problem by the High Council of Finance, on the other, are crucial to understand how Belgium was able to solve the collective action problem despite its tightly coupled fiscal regime and particularly high levels of deficits and debts. The article thus emphasizes the importance of compromise and consensus in reducing deficits and debts in federal states.


Johanna Schnabel
School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent, Rutherford College, Canterbury CT2 7NX, United Kingdom.
Article

Consensus Democracy and Bureaucracy in the Low Countries

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2019
Keywords consensus democracy, bureaucracy, governance system, Lijphart, policymaking
Authors Frits van der Meer, Caspar van den Berg, Charlotte van Dijck e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Taking Lijphart’s work on consensus democracies as our point of departure, we signal a major shortcoming in Lijphart’s focus being almost exclusively on the political hardware of the state structure, leaving little attention for the administrative and bureaucratic characteristics of governance systems. We propose to expand the Lijphart’s model which overviews structural aspects of the executive and the state with seven additional features of the bureaucratic system. We argue that these features are critical for understanding the processes of policymaking and service delivery. Next, in order to better understand the functioning of the Netherlands and Belgium as consensus democracies, we provide a short analysis of the historical context and current characteristics of the political-administrative systems in both countries.


Frits van der Meer
Frits van der Meer, Professor Institute Public Administration, Leiden University.

Caspar van den Berg
Caspar van den Berg, Campus Fryslân, University of Groningen.

Charlotte van Dijck
Charlotte van Dijck, PhD Fellow Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), KU Leuven Public Governance Institute.

Gerrit Dijkstra
Gerrit Dijkstra, Senior Lecturer, Leiden University.

Trui Steen
Trui Steen, Professor, KU Leuven Public Governance Institute.
Article

Access_open Do Characteristics of Consociational Democracies Still Apply to Belgian Parties?

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2019
Keywords Belgium, political parties, party membership, political participation, political representation
Authors Emilie Van Haute and Bram Wauters
AbstractAuthor's information

    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.


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

Bram Wauters
Bram Wauters, Research Group GASPAR, Ghent University.
Article

Transformative Welfare Reform in Consensus Democracies

Journal Politics of the Low Countries, Issue 1 2019
Keywords consensus democracy, welfare state, social investment, transformative reform, Belgium and the Netherlands
Authors Anton Hemerijck and Kees van Kersbergen
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article takes up Lijphart’s claim that consensus democracy is a ‘kinder, gentler’ form of democracy than majoritarian democracy. We zoom in on contemporary welfare state change, particularly the shift towards social investment, and argue that the kinder, gentler hypothesis remains relevant. Consensus democracies stand out in regard to the extent to which their political institutions help to overcome the politically delicate intricacies of governing for the long term. We theorize the features that can help to solve the problem of temporal commitment in democracy through processual mechanisms and illustrate these with short case studies of the contrasting welfare state reform experiences in the Netherlands and Belgium.


Anton Hemerijck
Anton Hemerijck is Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, Italy.

Kees van Kersbergen
Kees van Kersbergen is Professor of Comparative Politics at the Department of Political Science of Aarhus University, Denmark.
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