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DavidB.
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« on: March 25, 2017, 02:29:57 pm »
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I'd like to have a thread on political developments in my neighbors' country. If I understood correctly, federal elections take place once in five years instead of once in four years since 2014, so the next federal election is scheduled in 2019. There will be municipal and provincial elections in Flanders in October 2018; I don't know about Wallonia.

The current right-wing federal government consists of the Flemish nationalist N-VA, the Flemish liberal Open VLD, the Flemish Christian Democratic CD&V and the Walloon liberal MR. The Flemish government consists of N-VA, CD&V and Open VLD. The Walloon government consists of the social democratic PS and the Christian Democratic cdH.

Assistance by our Belgian posters (Rogier, InsulaDei, Umengus?) is highly appreciated, as my knowledge of Belgian political developments is shockingly limited.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2017, 06:37:27 pm by DavidB. »Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2017, 03:27:40 pm »
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What's going on with the PTB/Workers party of Belgium? They're in 2nd in Wallonia in the most recent poll. I imagine CETA is a contributor?
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parochial boy
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2017, 05:17:48 pm »
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I've been hoping someone would set up something like this.

How much do the cross-community parties with the same ideology actually collaborate? For example, how much do the PS and the PS.a have to do with each other?
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coloniac
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2017, 01:56:18 am »
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I was going to wait for France and the NL to blow over because things are relatively stable and boring here. I'll try and post the maps I found when i get back home.

What's going on with the PTB/Workers party of Belgium? They're in 2nd in Wallonia in the most recent poll. I imagine CETA is a contributor?

CETA was opposed by Magnette, the head of the Walloon government and most prominent PS figure after Di Rupo. Most Walloons think Magnette dealt with it well according to the polls. The few who did think he backed down probably switched to PTB.

PTB are 2nd now largely because PS are facing a corruption scandal in Liège that is on a higher scale that their previous one in Charleroi . Because it also has to do with municipalities, and the next elections are municipal, I think a lot of people are saying they are voting PTB to get rid of the corrupt PS in Liège and its surrounding communities (where the PTB have had their first real breakthroughs last election). I firmly expect the marginal people to switch back to the PS when the federal elections happen, but PTB will do better than last time out if they can maintain momentum.


I've been hoping someone would set up something like this.

How much do the cross-community parties with the same ideology actually collaborate? For example, how much do the PS and the PS.a have to do with each other?

Since the linguistic split and in particular the split in electoral districts, including Brussel-Hal-Vilvoorde, all of the traditional parties (Christian democrats, Liberals, Socialists) tend to focus on their own electorate and only cooperate when they need to ie over how they should govern my city. They do talk about being largest “family” in the country during election period (usually to boost their score against the N-VA) but other than that they tend to do things separately in terms of campaigning and manifesto pledges.

PS and sp.a for example have had major differences since the 2000s when sp.a turned somewhat to the right (including the a in the name which stands for “differently” in Flemish – you can imagine who they are referring to) and also sp.a voted with all the Flemish parties for the unilateral scission of BHV. But they still call themselves a unified political family and usually negotiate together on the federal level because the Flemish sp.a needs the PS and vice versa. Also sp.a have recently elected a left-winger as their head, John Combrez.

The liberals now tend to be more cooperative and have less differences, especially as they are the largest family in federal government. Since MR (French-speaking liberals) have broken up with the FDF(now Défi) over the latest state reforms, I think the MR have more leeway to find common ground with the Flemish parties in general. I would say Open Vld are still more right-wing on social and communitarian issues than MR though, in order to attract beyond their usual electorate. They refused to enter the 2010-2014 government because of the presence of the greens.

CD&V and Cdh have had policy divergences for years and have currently entered completely different coalition formations. They also still refer to each other as a family on election day but they essentially all but broken up. They are linked by having the same associated trade union in their pillar, the ACV-CVC, and the institutional left-wing of the CD&V is perhaps a little more aligned with Cdh as a result.

Ecolo-groen sit in the same parliamentary group on the federal level and de facto the same party in BXL. The Flemish groen is more left-liberal (especially their leader Calvo) whereas ECOLO have a tendency to try and out-PS the PS in terms of dirigiste left-wing government policy.

PTB-go/PVDA are the same party, as the only major party advocating a unitary Belgium this makes sense. Raoul Hedebouw, their leader, is the only politician I know who debates on both sides of the linguistic divide that isn’t Brussels-based.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2017, 03:05:45 am by Rogier »Logged
coloniac
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2017, 08:49:24 am »
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RTBF-La Libre have done a barometer of the politicians. In Flanders, the N-VA's Bart De Wever has taken top spot again with 28%, probably due to his recent rhetoric putting the confederalist idea back on the agenda. Confederalism, for those who are unaware of the concept, is the idea that the regions and communities of Belgium would be able to choose what government competences should be federalise and what should be devolved, rather than the federal government itself. Its been dubbed by the hardcore federalists like Défi and the green parties as "Federalisme pour les cons" (Federalism for dummies). The federalist parties are particularly stringent on preserving social security as a form of Belgian solidarity, which would inevitably be the first competence to fall if the N-VA would achieve confederalism.

Next in line is Theo Francken, also of the N-VA, and Maggie De Block, Open Vld. Both were lucky enough to occupy the most popular ministry in Belgium, the asylum and immigration portfolio. Recently, Francken won a case in the European Court of Justice over his ministry's ability to reject asylum for a Syrian family residing in Lebanon - and he was notoriously quite boastful about it.

Flemish polls are fairly consistent : N-VA up top and the traditional parties a fair bit behind. Vlaams Belang recently have risen in the polls as some are dissatisfied with the lack of communitarian agenda on the federal level. CD&V are the biggest losers though due to their left-wing being undermined by their participation in a heavily right-wing government.



Black is 2014, light blue is December 2016, dark blue is February 2017.

In Brussels, the previously hegemonic PS seem completely at sea and the most popular figures are the PM Charles Michel followed by his internal rival in the liberal MR, Didier Reynders. Third is Olivier Maingain, who split with the MR after the 6th state reform that was agreed with the Flemish parties. Maingain leads a Défi formation that stands for mocrates Fédéralistes Indépendents, who believe that the current alliance that MR has with the N-VA is the first step towards the eventual failure of the Belgian state. Under its previous identity of FDF, Maingain was notorious for representing the interests of the sizeable francophone minorities situated in the Brussels periphery, under Flemish jurisdiction, including the "ZAFL", 6 municipalities that are believed to be majority francophone and have voted for pro-Brussels mayors. Depending on who you listen to in those parts, Maingain is either the Francophone equivalent of the neo-fascist Vlaams Belang or the saviour of Belgian statehood.  



(percentage of francophones in the Brussels periphery)

Brussels polls :



Interesting that third place in Brussels varies according to whether the elector votes on a regional or a federal level (PTB on federal, Défi on regional).


Wallonia's favoured son is still Elio Di Rupo, the president of the PS and ex-prime-minister, who is at 30% favourability in the polls despite mounting pressure over his handling of the Publifin scandal in Liège province. Then comes Charles Michel, whose MR now top the polls, and in third, Raoul Hedebouw, whose PTB is surging to second.



http://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_popularite-bart-de-wever-charles-michel-et-elio-di-rupo-en-tete?id=9564116

« Last Edit: March 28, 2017, 03:52:57 pm by Rogier »Logged
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2017, 03:12:12 pm »
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Even if it is just a temporary phenomenon, it's still incredible that a paleocommunist party recently led by a well-known Stalin apologist achieved such a success in a Western European country where communism never was a prominent force (except for a very brief period immediately after WW2). Or did PVDA-PTB shift more towards democratic socialism after Martens' death?
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coloniac
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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2017, 02:01:59 am »
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Even if it is just a temporary phenomenon, it's still incredible that a paleocommunist party recently led by a well-known Stalin apologist achieved such a success in a Western European country where communism never was a prominent force (except for a very brief period immediately after WW2). Or did PVDA-PTB shift more towards democratic socialism after Martens' death?

Considerably more, but unlike some other similar parties in Europe they are not really afraid to call themselves Marxist-Leninist when asked. They're definitely not tankies anymore though. 
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Max Stirner
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« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2017, 01:47:37 pm »
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how extremist is nva?
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Vercingetorix
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« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2017, 02:36:57 pm »
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When will Belgium split up?
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DavidB.
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2017, 02:46:52 pm »
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When will Belgium split up?
Never.

how extremist is nva?
Not extremist. They're soft nationalists and soft populists in style, but in terms of the actual policies they carry out they are just your average center-right party (and, as Rogier aptly said, pretty comparable to the Dutch VVD). They are not euroskeptical and only pretend to be skeptical of non-Western immigration.
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coloniac
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2017, 02:51:38 pm »
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how extremist is nva?

Short answer : economically the party are neo-liberal Thatcherites (edit : like DavidB says, the VVD is the closest comparison), socially they are modern conservatives with a xenophobic wing, and institutionally they are gradualist separatists who have as the first line of their charter the establishment of a Flemish Republic as an ultimate goal.

Long answer : As a Brusselaar you are asking the wrong person, I'm too biased since the N-VA's claims to Brussels are at best irredentist. The academic debate is whether the N-VA is a populist party of the 21st century mould or merely the successor party (and electorate) to Volksunie, which managed to federate the non-neo-fascist nationalist movement under one banner. Volksunie though struggled to compete with the traditional parties because people in the 90s started caring more about their wallet than the institutional lasagne being cooked up, and both the PS and the CVP (now CD&V) were the engines of Federal decentralisation anyway.

N-VA grew out of the split in Volskunie between the Left and the Right, the Left seceding to become SPIRIT and the Right remaining in Volksunie in what would later become the N-VA.

For me, part of what makes the N-VA so successful is their eclectic message, their ability to generate simple headlines over complex issues like populists do and their ability to get away with certain turns of phrases without making the PS look like idiots if they call the N-VA racist or collabo. So for me they are Volksunie but with better PR and without the Left. That said, one of the more extremist wings of the N-VA, the VNV, is clearly at least an apologist of the collaboration of WW2 and their de facto leader, Theo Francken, has been caught attending the parties of a collaborationist and e-mails with racial slurs.http://www.demorgen.be/binnenland/lees-de-integrale-kutmarokkaantjes-mail-van-theo-francken-b1289ad6/ A lot of councillors defected from Vlaams Belang to N-VA to explore a more strategic option towards independence.

When will Belgium split up?

The process probably started in 1968 and will end when the next World War happens.

When will Belgium split up?
They are not euroskeptical

They sit in the same group as the CU-SGP, The DPP, The Bulgarian National Party and they are for a confederal Europe, but they are quiet about it.  
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 05:03:57 pm by Rogier »Logged
parochial boy
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2017, 05:22:30 pm »
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When will Belgium split up?

The process probably started in 1968 and will end when the next World War happens.

If it does split up, does Wallonia join France? I've heard it is not too unpopular as an option
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coloniac
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« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2017, 12:55:53 pm »
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When will Belgium split up?

The process probably started in 1968 and will end when the next World War happens.

If it does split up, does Wallonia join France? I've heard it is not too unpopular as an option

https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_rattachement-wallonie-france-60-des-francais-favorables-39-des-wallons?id=6528413

The last poll the RTBF did has a small sample, and showed that just 36% of Walloons would accept rattachisme, compared to 60% of the french. I imagine in Brussels its even less (especially with the Franco-Belgian tax exiles in Uccle). The political elites certainly don't want it because of the unitary, centralised nature of the French state, Magnette for example stated he would rather join Germany as a new federal state in case of split. Walloon elites fought as much as Volksunie for federalism in Belgium, relating to lack of representation and well as socio-economic governance. I highly doubt they will enjoy being governed by the French conservative Right, of which no serious equivalent exists in Wallonia.

Its hard to say though, because Wallonia has a very dormant national political consciousness since the Dehaene state reforms in the early 90s. Its a sort of post-modern version of what Flanders had from 1830 to the advent of their nationalism somewhere in the interwar period. So the idea that Walloon political identity can be discussed through a poll would first require the existence of a Walloon or "Francophone" political identity, which I still don't believe exists, unlike in the North.
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coloniac
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« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2017, 02:26:22 pm »
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Speaking of Rattachisme RTBF have gone full Francophile and polled how Belgium would vote should they be subject to the French candidates. Two things to keep in mind : 1/2 voters would not know how to vote (I imagine these are usually some liberal separatists or the kind of apolitical voter who votes for the parents' pillar). And it was done by internet.

Belgium overall :

Macron 26%
Le Pen 25%
Hamon 13%
Fillon 12%
Mélenchon 8%



Wallonia :

Macron 27%
Le Pen 23% (!!!)

Brussels :

Macron 23%
Mélenchon 17%

Flanders :

Le Pen 28%
Macron 26%


Macron 66% (no matter what region he would win the run-off)


The only surprise is that mainly confirms what I said way back in the Dutch thread, that there is some popularity with the far right in Wallonia, it just doesn't translate into votes due to the high election turnout (with those pillar voters), as well as the Wallonian far right unable to get over their sectarian differences, unlike the far left that merged into PTB-GO!

I'm also going to use this post on the front page to explain a little about how electoral districts on the federal level work for future reference. Belgium, while as electorally divided as our brethren up North, have a voting system that is more similar to Spain's, or to a lesser extent Northern Ireland. There are electoral constituencies (the provinces + BXL) where several members are elected via the d'Hondt method. Here is the breakdown :



and here is how a bulletin looks like (you vote for a candidate to make them jump the list or express you preference for them, but you can also vote for the party list) :



The result is heavy regionalisation and personalisation of the vote, much like Spain. Parties choose local faces or big hitters in provinces they know they can gain a seat off another or do particularly well in, and fix their resources accordingly. Hardcore federalists like groen-ecolo, Défi and some others on the left advocate a federal district for federal elections, while the traditional parties and the nationalists prefer the scission. The main controversy for some of the francophone parties is again that BHV used to be a federal district where both linguistic groups could stand but now this is only extended to Brussels-Region. The Flemish parties did not want francophone parties campaigning in the Flemish region though, rightly or wrongly, as they already view Brussels as a lost part of their territory.

I'll get into the election results and party profiles in a future post.


« Last Edit: March 30, 2017, 04:13:40 pm by Rogier »Logged
DavidB.
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« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2017, 05:49:48 pm »
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If I understood correctly you can vote for more than one candidate as long as these candidates belong to the same party. How does this work?
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parochial boy
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« Reply #15 on: March 30, 2017, 06:18:27 pm »
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Sort of tenuously linked to the langugage question - but what is the political identity of Brussels? Does it see itself as a francophone city, and solidaire with Wallonia? Or does Brussels consider itself to be a separate entity in its own right?

I guess the the same question would go for Halle Vilvorde, do they see theselves as Flemish or Bruxellois? or is it just too messy to say?
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coloniac
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« Reply #16 on: March 30, 2017, 07:05:40 pm »
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Sort of tenuously linked to the langugage question - but what is the political identity of Brussels? Does it see itself as a francophone city, and solidaire with Wallonia? Or does Brussels consider itself to be a separate entity in its own right?

I guess the the same question would go for Halle Vilvorde, do they see theselves as Flemish or Bruxellois? or is it just too messy to say?

The simple answer is that the people currently living in Brussels do consider themselves separate politically from Walloons. But at the same time see their existence inside a Belgian state as being reliant on voting for "Walloon" parties (and also largely because Brussels is now 90-10 francophone/dutch-speaking). Because Brussels is a city the political debate is tailored around different issues than Wallonia. And, as you can clearly see, it votes slightly differently to Wallonia (ecolo are still strong here along with Défi and PS, + the Flemish parties' influence that has to govern in the cross-community set-up).

The French-speakers in the periphery identify with Brussels, although keep in mind (i.e the Flemish nationalist perspective) many can also be Walloon immigrants who don't understand why the Flemings are so aggressive on language policy, and just fall back on the grandiose idea of BHV.

It varies with the Flemings, it usually depends on whether or not their socio-economic life revolves around Brussels, in which case they tend to be a bit more cosmopolitan, but still proud of Flemish roots. Then you have the ones desperate not to suffer the "Brusselisation" of their communities. A good indicator is whether the commune building flies the Belgian flag or not (no joke). There are also parts of "North North Brussels" where flying the wrong flag out of your window is a bad idea.

If I understood correctly you can vote for more than one candidate as long as these candidates belong to the same party. How does this work?

Yup, a simple rule. If you vote for several candidates in the same list, then a +1 is made to the party list total. The district's assigned seats are then distributed between the lists, but the actual candidates of the list selected are based on which ones got the most votes and jump the list (just like NL). So by adding +1 to each candidate you like you and your friends can make several candidates jump the list rather than say, focusing on one. If that makes sense.

Also if you vote blanc your vote automatically goes to the largest party list, which for me is a more motivating factor to go out and vote than the potential fine you can incure for not turning out on election day.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2017, 07:15:32 pm by Rogier »Logged
DavidB.
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« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2017, 07:44:31 pm »
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Wow. In the Netherlands people continue to spread the urban myth that your vote ends up with the largest party if you don't vote, but apparently a blanc vote in Belgium does exactly that. Does an invalid vote (e.g. by voting for candidates on different lists) have the same effect?

The rule with voting for multiple candidates makes much sense to me. If I understand the system correctly, if a list gets 4 seats, these seats will simply go to the four candidates that have received the most votes, right? There is no threshold (like the Dutch 25% one in parliamentary elections) that a candidate has to reach before they can jump the list?
« Last Edit: March 30, 2017, 08:31:44 pm by DavidB. »Logged
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« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2017, 04:37:54 am »
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Wow. In the Netherlands people continue to spread the urban myth that your vote ends up with the largest party if you don't vote, but apparently a blanc vote in Belgium does exactly that. Does an invalid vote (e.g. by voting for candidates on different lists) have the same effect?


This link (a Belgian federal government website) mentions that blank ballots are treated just the same as in the Netherlands: http://www.elections.fgov.be/index.php?id=3260&L=1
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coloniac
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« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2017, 05:40:43 am »
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Wow. In the Netherlands people continue to spread the urban myth that your vote ends up with the largest party if you don't vote, but apparently a blanc vote in Belgium does exactly that. Does an invalid vote (e.g. by voting for candidates on different lists) have the same effect?

I have just gone over the law, and I just realised its only partly true. Because of the constituency system it strengthens the share of largest party, rather than its absolute numbers, hence why people always say a white or spoiled vote goes to the majority. It strengthens the majority as it enables them to take the bigger share and thus an extra seat when distributed. So still a good enough reason for me to go out and vote. Phew.

Quote
The rule with voting for multiple candidates makes much sense to me. If I understand the system correctly, if a list gets 4 seats, these seats will simply go to the four candidates that have received the most votes, right? There is no threshold (like the Dutch 25% one in parliamentary elections) that a candidate has to reach before they can jump the list?

As far as I understand it yes. You can read about it here :

http://www.elections.fgov.be/index.php?id=3350&L=1

Also there is a 5% threshold per constituency which tends to harm small parties. It explains why some parties used cartels, and smaller parties in Brussels here use cartel systems to transfer votes to a different list should they not meet the threshold. PTB, Pirates and pro-bruxsel had such an agreemenet
« Last Edit: March 31, 2017, 02:15:04 pm by Rogier »Logged
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« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2017, 12:12:08 pm »
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The federal coalition has started to show its first cracks, and it appears to be the N-VA undermining their coalition partners, as expected. Zuhal Demir, who was recently appointed Secretary for Equal Chances, has called her CD&V partner a " Muslim party" after recent comments from some of CD&V Limburgish members appealing to Turks who do not feel comfortable after the recent tensions over Erdogan's referendum. Demir, who is also from Genk and of Turkish-Kurdish origin. has previous as an attention seeker, she called for the dismissal of the anti-discrimination agency, was called a PKK-sympathiser by Turkish media and mainly made her name before this posing in lingerie for parliament. Michel has reprimanded her for her latest outbursts but Wouter Beke, the CD&V leader, wants a public apology.


Anyway, time to start the party rundown of the Flemish constituency. Maps are from npdata.be, a website set up by a sociologist Jan Hertogen who posts these maps and gives a detailed analysis in Dutch (even if you don't speak it give his website some hits). His Flemish rundown of 2014 in particular is a more authoritative source than me because I can only understand some parts of Flanders so much (like goddamn Ninove and their 16% for Vlaams Belang), so the Dutch speakers in particular should look it up. His Brussels and Walloon maps don't have as much analysis though so I will try to complete when they come up. And as an early disclaimer, I know next to nothing about the 70,000 strong German minority other than the Northern part is essentially Limburg 3.0 and that the Southern parts speak Luxemburgish German and socially revolve around it too. So I won't be able to give you a detailed analysis as to why the Greens suddenly did so well there while they crashed in the rest of Wallonia, although it might have something to do with the 3 traditional parties being the incumbents of the German Community.

CD&V – Christien Democraat & Vlaams
(Christian Democrats & Flemish)
Party president : Wouter Beke

For years, the CD&V, under its previous name of the Catholieke VolksPartei (CVP), was the dominant hegemonic force of Flemish politics. Its initial success in the early 20th century was largely due to dormant Flemish political identity, allowing it to exploit its societal pillar (verzuiling in Dutch) in the North. Thus, through its media, its mutuality (insurance), its trade union, its university and its grassroots clientalism made it insurmountable, with only the post-war era and the turn of the millennium being times where the CVP/CD&V has been in opposition.
With the advent of a Flemish national consciousness in the late 60s, the CVP became the engine of Flemish demands for federalism, breaking away from their francophone counterpart and consistently finished first election after election until 1999, when the liberals took over as largest party.

Strongholds:
“Rural” towns in Flanders was undoubtedly the CD&V’s stronghold. Fun fact about this: the Christian pillar was responsible for making company cars tax free in Belgium because it was a generally accepted rule in the party that if the rural population were to move to the city to work they would turn socialist or liberal (and now increasingly nationalist). The result is a much more spread out population, and a conservation of village lifestyle in the region.

Your standard CD&V towns are commuter or agricultural towns in the Flemish peripheries like Limburg, West Flanders and the marginaal(not sure there is a translation for this) parts of East Flanders, as well as the Kampen in Antwerp province. These places were seen as the fulcrum of Flemish society and where the vote would swing CD&V, but have recently towards their old cartel partner, the N-VA.

2014 map :




Ideology
Economic: Centrist to centre-right, Christian Democrats in Belgium believe in a mutual compromise of capital and labour. They are much more to the left economically than the CDU or UMP. They are comparable to the Dutch CDA, but Belgium’s political orientation is far more orientated to the economic left.

Social issues: Very similar to the CDA in the Netherlands, in that they oppose certain issues like euthanasia but are otherwise reluctant to focus on these kind of issues as priorities in policy making anymore. With the refugee crisis and the N-VA they have upped their immigration rhetoric but previously they were quite mainstream.

View of the Belgian state: The CD&V would like to push forward a new state reform that would fix certain anomilies and ambiguity in the last one and bring back more powers to the Flemish Community & Region (which is one merged government unlike the francophone side). The CD&V officially still remains committed to a Belgian state though, unlike the N-VA, and its pillar has always been seen as a Royalist one. 

Key factions & figures

The CD&V combines two real branches in their party. One is the social Christian branch. They are heavily associated with the largest union in Belgium, the Christian ACV-CSC, as well as the agricultural sector. Since their only time in opposition (1999) however, CD&V have swung increasingly to the right, and have attracted a large, more modern conservative faction that also has strong links with enterprise interest groups.

Kris Peeters : ex-minister-president of Flanders and a popular figure because he is seen as a safe pair of hands, as well as somebody who can federate with the unions and enterprises alike. His handling of the Ford Genk crisis for example, where he guaranteed certain living conditions for the workers who were made redundant there, was universally praised.

Marianne Thyssen : Getting a role in the EU as a Commissioner seems to be a bigger deal in Belgium than anywhere else. Because our federals and regionals are now on the same day as European elections, the federal negotiations often involve one party negotiating who gets to be part of the new Commission’s team. Thyssen was selected, and Peeters reportedly missed out on the PM because of this. She is from the social wing.

Sammy Mahdi : the president of the young CD&V has recently attracted headlines because he was president of the youth wing in Molenbeek and said he "wanted soliders off our streets". He is tipped to be a rising star in the party, especially in attracting confessional Muslim votes.

Yves Leterme : aka the man who sang the French anthem when asked to sing the Belgian one. This was when he was PM of Belgium. To be fair to Leterme, at the time Belgium was going through its biggest constitutional crisis since the late 60s. After the 2010 result in particular, Leterme was forced to stay in office while the longest government formation in modern political history had to be solved. There is talk of comeback for Leterme in the next municipal election, maybe in his hometown of Ypres.
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« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2017, 12:19:02 pm »
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Open Vld (Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten) (Open Flemish Liberal Democrats)
Party president: Gwendoline Rutten

Open Vld are the standard-bearer of the liberal pillar in the Region, having rebranded from the Partij voor Vrijheid en Vooruitgang ( or PVV lol). As currently the largest and only ‘’family’’ represented on the federal level, they are serving as a bridge between the two communities. They have also been involved in various governments, but the only time they have headed one as the largest party was the Verhofstad “Purple” years from 1999-2007.

Unlike in the Netherlands, where liberals tended to oppose the pillar system, in Belgium they embraced it. Thus, the Vld used closely associated with sections of Belgian civil society, such the Vrij Universiteit Brussel, the Liberal union and the liberal mutuality. However, their pillar has weakened considerably compared to the other parties.

Ideology

Currently, the Open Vld is struggling to find political space due to both N-VA and CD&V trying to take up the economic and institutional Right respectively. Vld still claim to be social liberal and progressive on economic issues but put far more emphasis on the liberal than the social their Walloon counterparts insist on. The most salient Dutch equivalent would therefore be the Pechtold-faction of D66: right-wing on the economy, left-wing on minor social issues. Vld still entertain strong relations with both the VVD and D66, and are currently undergoing VVDification to compete with the N-VA on issues like immigration and public safety.  

In terms of the Belgian state, Open Vld are traditionally more moderate and unionist than CD&V on devolution, but advocate it on economic grounds, believing that interregional transfers and social welfare as a federal competence could be devolved to increase regional budgetary responsibility.

Strongholds: Brussels periphery, where some of the technocrats and upper social elites in Brussels, Flemish or not, live. Increasingly the francophones here vote for the Vld, when they previously voted MR. And then Gent and its periphery, where the rest of the Flemish upper technocratic or service class tend to live regardless of where they work. Vld also do well in some of the central rich districts of Antwerp but have really suffered at the hands of the N-VA in the province. Their weakest areas are easily rural Antwerp province, Limburg and West Flanders.


 
Key figures :

Guy Verhofstadt is still a key intellectual architect of the Millenial Open Vld, more social liberal turn at the start of the century. He was actually nicknamed baby Thatcher as a young councillor in Gent (harshly IMO), but said his views softened after the Rwanda experience, believing in a more positive role for interventionist liberalism, and the need for a European state. He currently spends his days working at the EU level, as head of the liberal ALDE group, writing books on how to fix Europe by making a federal EU. Last EP parliament elections demonstrated how popular he was on both sides of the electoral divide, amassing strong preference vote counts.

Alexander de Croo: the son of Herman de Croo, another pillar of the old PVV, Alexander is also famous for being the stubborn, somewhat more communitarian, figure in the Vld. He collapsed the Leterme II government prematurely over BHV negotiations, refused to enter the Di Rupo I government due to the presence of the Greens and has recently called out Wallonia for the allowing FN Herstal, as state-owned arms company, for selling weapons to the Saudis.

Maggie de Block: As immigration and asylum minister she successfully won the hearts of more right-wing Flemish and Walloon voters alike with her tough stance, and was also praised for her Health Minister portfolio. Along with party leader Gwendoline Rutte, she is leading the "VVDification" of the party as a result.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 03:03:51 am by coloniac »Logged
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« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2017, 12:28:29 pm »
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Sp.a – Socialistische Partij Anders

For years, the sp.a were usually seen as the junior partner of the Walloon PS, and a common voice for the progressive, unionist left. But their recent divergences have shown the sp.a to be more flexible as a political force. During the Verhostadt gouvernements, Steve Stevaert, inspired by Tony Blair, ensured sp.a underwent a renewal of party name, communication and policy, with the inclusion of the left-wing of the Flemish Movement, SPIRIT (led by ex-Volksunie leader Bert Anciaux). An excellent communicator (and frequent womaniser, which lead to his eventual suicide), Limburger Stevaert turned the sp.a into a moddernising party to encapsulate the mood at the time –. Like New Labour though, the backlash over the glorificiation of liberal globalisation, has caught up with sp.a. After a rethink, the party has instead turned to a more moderate traditional labour in the form of John Combrez.

Ideology

sp.a’s ideological evolution is comparable to the Dutch PvdA (not to be confused with the Belgian PVDA – who are the communists) or to the German SPD. They have the added pressure of the second largest union in Belgium though, the FGTB/ABVV, and the Walloon and Brussels Socialists being more left-wing than the vast majority of socialist parties across Europe. The recent emergence of groen have also pushed sp.a to elect a left-populist leader who focuses more on economic justice.

sp.a are more unionist than their right-wing counterparts, but still advocated economic federalism after their rebranding, and previously carteled the left-wing of Volksunie (the social-liberal wing under Bert Anciaux).

Strongholds :

Urban Limburg (the closest you will come to a "Flemish Wallonia" - a depressed industrial zone), cosmopolitan/university towns like Leuven and Gent - the latter also because of the Gent industrial zone in the north of the city limits. Then large coastal towns like Oostende, where Combrez´s district is. sp.a’s main losses to the nationalists recently have originated from Antwerp province, where they used to hold Antwerp mayorality under ex-leader Patrick Janssens, as well as the working class Waasland next to the Diamond City.




Key figures :
The sp.a is somewhat of a family affair, and was dominated by Louis Tobback in Leuven and Willy Claes in Hasselt in the old days. Their offspring, Bruno and Hilde were seen as natural successors but both fell foul to poor leadership and corruption respectively. Now the party is definitely seen through John Combrez’s mediatic presence.

Another semi-famous figure is Meryame Kitir, a ex-Ford Genk worker who gave a passionate speech on the federal level on behalf of her embattled colleagues when Ford decided to relocate:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFM4Fx2KJCM
(and also subject to a racial slur from an Open Vld member)


Johan Vandelanotte
is the strongman Oostende and the coast. He is known for his more compromising, technocratic style.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2017, 05:43:46 pm by coloniac »Logged
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« Reply #23 on: April 11, 2017, 12:47:37 pm »
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N-VA – Nieuw-Vlaams Alliantie (Neo-Flemish Alliance)

N-VA are the legal successor to the standard bearer of non-radical Flemish nationalism, Volksunie, what was the political arm of the Flemish movement (Vlaamse Beweging). After the traditional parties broke up along linguistic lines, the Flemish parties fought on Volksunie’s message of federalism and cultural emancipation and construction of the Flemish nation. Volksunie’s reply of social liberalism, under Bert Anciaux, was successful at first but not enough for the party to suffer mid to late 90s drubbings at the hands of the now heavily devolutionist CVP and Open Vld.

Once federalism had been achieved, the left-wing of the Volksunie were suffering an existential crisis, and the right-wing wanted to push forward for Flemish Independence (for a detailed analysis on the demise of Volksunie you can read a pretty good academic article called Volksunie in memoriam or something like that). The result was the separation of the Flemish nationalists under two banners : N-VA and SPIRIT.  

Rather than stand as separate parties though, they both entered cartels, whereby some of their members would join up to larger party’s list. N-VA joined CD&V, as the latter looked to outflank Verhofstadt on state reform issues such as BHV. The result was undoubted success, but after Yves Leterme failed to solve the BHV issue, the N-VA split announcing that it would have to be the one to represent the Flemish interest on the federal level.

The N-VA’s meteoric rise to the first party of Flanders was for me a result of a perfect storm: the traditional parties looked weak in front of francophone stubbornness, the financial crisis was successfully blamed on the public debt (and by default the Walloon PS), and the general fragmentation we are seeing in Europe that allows for populist parties to flourish was a wave picked up by the N-VA, particularly in their communication style.

Ideology :
See my earlier post

Strongholds : the map maker describes N-VA’s Antwerp banana as their main source of success, but a map of electoral Belgium also shows how eclectic the N-VA’s message has been. The N-VA map is misleading because their lowest percentage shown in bright green is about 21% (groen's highest). Only Limburg and West-Flanders really resisted the initial N-VA surge. N-VA have mainly picked from CD&V and Vlaams Belang electorates.  



Key figures:
N-VA is arguably the most complex Flemish political party with several clans and factions having emerged, just like Volksunie. Because I don’t have first hand experience with this, I will only go through the two ideological rather than genuine seperations.

Bart de Wever is the uncontested leader of the N-VA. He manages to represent a compromise between the two (broad) ideological wings of the party : the right-wing elements of the Volksunie that sees any policy as a means to an end, that of Flemish independence.  And the pragmatists that were drawn to the N-VA’s socio-economic and philosophical tenants, namely the new Right.

The leader of the right-wing Volksunie faction was Geert Bourgeois. He is minister-president of Flanders and was leader of the N-VA during their conception and eventual cartel formation. A quiet figure, he tries to distance himself from perhaps more extreme “New Right” elements of the N-VA right-wing, such as Jan Jambon and Theo Francken, the two most prominent N-VA federal ministers at Home and Asylum/ respectively. They usually constitute ex-members of the shady NSV (the slightly elitist, anti-francophone, revisionist student union for hard right Flemish nationalists) or even Vlaams Belang.

On the more pragmatist wing you find people like Siegfried Bracke, an ex-public television journalist who entered politics to reform it. He said that independence “doesn’t make him horny” (it sounds a bit more normal in Flemish). These are the people that are frustrated with the Belgian state structures rather than traditional right-wing nationalists.  
« Last Edit: August 09, 2017, 02:25:46 pm by Rogier »Logged
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« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2017, 01:03:43 pm »
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Groen
The Flemish Greens (previously known as Agalev) are a rising force on the Flemish Left after a brief stint at the turn of the millennial in government led them to near oblivion. They started out as a party combining Flemish rural renewal with your standard urban green voters from other advanced democracies – but now they have firmly integrated into the latter category.  
Recently, Groen have found success from two avenues: one, the rightward turn of the sp.a at the turn of the Millennia, and two, being almost consistently in opposition in Flanders since their ill-fated spell in Verhofstadt I, unlike their competitors.

Strongholds
Student cities, as you would expect, but also that Antwerp-Leuven intellectual yuppie banana where lower middle class workers live. Medium-sized Flemish towns such as Brugge, Lokeren or Mechelen (where their leader Calvo plays a prominent role) like groen because of their emphasis on taking care of the city environment, as a sort of small-c conservative left than remains from Agalev.



Key figures:

the two I know the most are Kristoff Calvo and Meryem Almaci. Calvo is a Jesse Klaver clone (its actually the other way round but I assume most of you read DavidB’s thread first) who relishes taking on the federal majorities accountable while balancing what he calls “freedom and justice”. He’s also very effective at headline-hugging with either surprising or superficial policy proposals, ranging from forced bilingual subtitles on all TV programs, a federal 1 man 1 vote district or a proposal to liberalise public transport.

Meryem Almaci is more left-wing but both seem very effective in not getting drawn into caricatures once associated with the Socialist family.

Groen also have a small seperatist faction within them.


Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest)


Vlaams Belang stands for Flemish interest, and is the de facto successor of Vlaams Blok, a party that was banned for violating an anti-racism law. Vlaams Blok was a neo-fascist party with links to Voorpost, a militant Flemish-Dutch neo-Nazi association. Before the 80s it was mainly known as a fringe neo-fascist organisation that would organise attacks on specific francophone-populated areas, such as Voeren/Fourons or, of course, Brussels (they murdered an FDF militant while he was putting up posters in North Brussels).  Its main electoral breakthrough came on the so-called Zwarte Zondag (Black Sunday) in 1991, when it became one of the few “winning” parties (that including the pan-Belgian FN and Volksunie) as immigration and the Belgian state reform agenda became key issues. Since then it has had a cordon sanitaire around it, meaning that no party enters power with it on any level, with the N-VA the only major party to have even flirted with the idea.

As an isolated political force with nothing to lose, it has had the leeway to moderate its tone in the mainstream media, while maintaining close contacts with its far right “base” of organisations, and when Volksunie disbanded it became the haven for hardline independence. It finished first in Antwerp in 2003, and became the second largest Flemish party in the locals in 2006. The court case against Vlaams Blok gave it the publicity they needed to survive the transition into Vlaams Belang, but the recent rise of the N-VA has meant that it has suffered a total downslide in the polls as right-wing nationalist voters switch to a choice of government rather than opposition.  2014 in particular represented a major set-back in the party.


Ideology:
Economic : depends on the time of asking, but in general I would classify Vlaams Belang as a social far right party. Their supporters though are usually voting two issues : immigration and independence.

View of the Belgian state : unilateral independence. Interestingly though they have given up on Brussels, but maintain the Flemish status of BHV.
 
Social issues : far right conservative, although Van Grieken is trying to make them more modern as he realises his electorate could be younger.

Strongholds: Antwerp Province. Antwerp suburbs. Antwerp City. But mainly suburbs or peripherals cities (voorsteden) that are home to cheap housing around Antwerp. Wilrijk (officially a part of Antwerp despite being miles from the centre) is the best example of a “brondorp” (fascist village). They also do well in isolated, “marginal” towns where the quality of life in general is pretty sh**tty (Ninove seems to be an example of that).



Key factions and figures
Two factions really stand out in Vlaamse Belang : the traditional wing lead by Filip De Winter, that heavily associated itself with other neo-fascist parties around Europe (Dewinter recently spoke at a Golden Dawn meeting in Athens to welcome their newest member). And then the young, more rebellious crew led by current leader Tom Van Grieken. More “intellectual”, more edgy than geriatric (or intelligent), just as dangerous.


Appreciate any feedback from the Flemish lurkers.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 08:46:26 am by Rogier »Logged
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