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Author Topic: Belgian Politics & Elections: Federal Election in May 2019  (Read 23326 times)
coloniac
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« on: March 26, 2017, 01:56:18 am »

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 #1 on: March 26, 2017, 08:49:24 am »

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
coloniac
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« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2017, 02:01:59 am »

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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coloniac
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« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2017, 02:51:38 pm »

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
coloniac
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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2017, 12:55:53 pm »


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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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2017, 02:26:22 pm »

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
coloniac
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« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2017, 07:05:40 pm »

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
coloniac
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2017, 05:40:43 am »

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 #8 on: April 11, 2017, 12:12:08 pm »

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 #9 on: April 11, 2017, 12:19:02 pm »

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 Sad

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 #10 on: April 11, 2017, 12:28:29 pm »

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 Sad

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 Sad
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 #11 on: April 11, 2017, 12:47:37 pm »

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 #12 on: April 11, 2017, 01:03:43 pm »

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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« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2017, 12:44:58 pm »

Fascinating, thanks ! The maps are informative, but only as to distribution of votes within a party, not relative strength with other parties.

Bumping to first thank Watermelon for the feedback (merci ket). Second to keep this on the front page.

They are indeed misleading maps, but the percentage shown (e.g 0.21) in the scale is what they got as a proportion of the vote overall.

If I were to post this map for example (largest per electoral voting district - not constituency):



One would assume that the N-VA dominate much like you would maybe think VVD "dominated" their election in NL. In reality it shows the N-VA's eclectic political nature as an uninhibited Right.

Way back on the 2014 thread homely cooking posted this :



hope he still reads stuff here.

Anyway, a little update before the Walloon parties are presented,
The Turkish Belgian population is the diaspora that had the largest percentage of Yes votes in the Turkish referendum. As a result De Wever, who previously advocated the right for Belgians abroad to vote in federals, has now said he wants to take away the possibility of having dual nationality Belgian/xxxx. CD&V and Open Vld have somewhat followed the N-VA on this after the policy window opened but Didier Reynders of MR just shut the door on it saying it was unfair on Belgians who adopted a dual nationality.

PS are awfully quiet after the Publifin scandal these days. A lot of internal dissent with both the old generation of PS dinosaurs around Liège and the "modernists" like Stéphane Moreau who basically set the whole thing up. There was talk of Di Rupo resigning as party but his preference votes (178,000+) and local profile in Hainaut (nothing to do with Liège) are really helping his cause. The next francophone personality with more preference votes is cdh President Benoit Lutgen who acts basically as a constituency candidate despite his function.
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« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2017, 04:38:51 pm »



This map shows MR winning districts in Flanders (around Brussels), how is it possible?

The BVH (Bruxelles-Hal-Vilvolde) constituency covers Brussels region and 35 towns of Flemish Brabant.

BHV as an electoral district was solid gone by 2014. In reality those are zone a facilités linguistiques :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipalities_with_language_facilities#Dutch-speaking_municipalities_with_facilities_for_French_speakers

Basically the few priviledged who managed to keep BHV status by virtue of being majority francophone and part of a Flemish-Walloon bargaining process. The francophone parties have to obey specific rules relating to them campaigning in French on Flemish soil though.

I also love how sp.a won just one commune and it neighbors the Hainaut exclave. Is Wervik FINO ? Wink

Well I won't say the facility communes are not historical Flemish territory (lets not talk about Duinkerke oké ;-) ), but that whole little area is a mix of French and Dutch speakers, yes. Both Comines-Warneton and communes within Wervik's electoral district have language facilities. sp.a tend to do quite well in W-FL anyway.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 12:54:21 am by Rogier »Logged
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« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2017, 04:37:05 am »

Hey guys, if anyone is interested, I've started mapping Belgian elections since 1949's. Should I post them here or is there an appropriate thread for historical election maps?

Post them here! I looked and there was no general thread.

Just out of curiosity, are they by electoral district or by commune?
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 04:38:42 am by Rogier »Logged
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« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2017, 05:40:48 am »

Hey guys, if anyone is interested, I've started mapping Belgian elections since 1949's. Should I post them here or is there an appropriate thread for historical election maps?

Post them here! I looked and there was no general thread.

Just out of curiosity, are they by electoral district or by commune?

By constituency, so by arrondissement, largely.

So I've mapped 1949, 1950 and the referendum on the royal question. The numbers are crunched for 1954 but not the map. The election was done in a two-tiered system where the provinces also served to distribute the seats more proportionately but sadly the Belgian electoral website does not keep track of that tier, instead just the final tally once the second-tier seats were assigned to the constituencies.









Pics aren't coming up. Sad

I had a post ready for the Royal referendum because it clearly shows the Walloon industrial belt's total rejection of the "Ancien Regime institutions", as De Wever calls them. Antwerp Province is also an interesting one.
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« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2017, 06:06:46 am »

Umm, I'll reupload and link them then, just in case.

1949 election: http://imgur.com/A6KuEPL

Referendum: http://imgur.com/2AcW4zT

1950 election: http://imgur.com/yxL4kKy

Yeah, Imgur is a pain on here. Thank you for these great maps anyway. I´ve been looking all over for these and was about to make them myself (starting from 2014).
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« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2017, 06:31:31 am »



Population density in Belgium to get a sense of what Nanwe’s maps will mean. Note the high spread in Flanders compared to the very large dense spots in Wallonia’s main urban cities. There’s what I was telling you about the Catholic pillar’s influence in Flanders. Caring for the city/village is a much bigger deal up there, just like in the Netherlands.
Time to do the bulk of Francophone parties before I do PVDA/PTB
The first thing you need to know is that in terms of issue salience, the Francophone political parties are much more orientated towards the socio-economic than any cultural, identity or nationalist politics than the Flemish are. The roots of this was the polarisation of “bourgeois democracy vs proletarian protest” in the early days of Belgian statehood. But recently the entire debate is focused over how to hit the restart button on Wallonia after its fall from grace. Wallonia saw itself, with its de-industrialisation and total reversal of roles with the now prosperous Flanders, as a victim of economic globalisation and general decline in the most populated areas.

The result has been a heavy polarisation between the economic Right and Left, with both claiming to be “economic progressives” or reformists in their own way. The other parties have had to contend with slow decline or poor governmental records. Recently, there has been talk of a centrist cartel or merger between CdH-Défi-ECOLO, the current composition of the Schaerbeek municipality where they work pretty well together. With the victory of Macron and the rise of the PTB influencing Walloon political consciousness, this may happen sooner rather than later, despite key ideological differences.

Brussels, as already discussed, has its own issues. I will dedicate a seperate post to Brussels politics, but an example is that MR focus much more on issues of public security and integration than they do in Wallonia, and resemble a more urban centre-right conservative party in that respect. Another example is the Brussels-Zaventem flight plan, that can make or break party prospects in Brussels-Region. Brussels-Region has 19 communes with 19 mayors and 19 seperate police forces, just to add to the Brussels-Region parlement. So, local fiefdoms and politics play a massive role too. The “Local” politics effects in Wallonia are on the provincial level, which just happens to be the constituencies. Some exceptions include the Champagne-Ardenne region in Hainaut, the places where the local mayors are popular enough to carry it or the German-speakers who have their own government for certain competences.
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« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2017, 06:31:58 am »

Parti Socialiste (PS)
The Walloon Socialist Party is seen as the hegemonic force in the region, and its easy to see why the perception of “PS-staat” exists North of the linguistic border: prior to Michel I they had been involved in federal government for the good part of 26 years, and as the de facto party of government in the Walloon Region, and now increasingly in Brussels, they have survived a swing to the right in the North of the country.

PS’s hegemony rises from Wallonia’s economic outlook : far more industrialised than the North, its now depressed coal and steel plants were easy picking for some of the original Labour movements in Europe in the early 1900s. Their decision to mirror the Catholics in creating a “pillar” (with notably their own health insurance mutuality tied to their union) also helped their cause enormously.

In the 70s and 80s, the PS was one of the key advocate of modern Belgian federalism, as it tried to compete with Walloon regionalists that originate from their base. Part of their core argument was the idea that the CVP was focussing too much on developing Flanders with Walloon funds. Along with Jean-Luc Dehaene’s CVP it managed to negotiate the federal state. Since then the PS has been presenting itself (paradoxically) as both the defender against Flemish nationalist attacks on the Belgian state and the chief architect of trying to build a Walloon national consciousness on a federal level.

The turn of the century has been a mixed success for the PS. They have been hit by many corruption scandals, the two biggest being the Charleroi one in 2006 and now the Publifin scandal in Liège, their two traditional strongholds. Nevertheless, the loss of votes over these seem to only harm the PS superficially : generally when PS voters are angry with the party over corruption or policy they switch to ECOLO (whose first major breakthrough was due to disgruntled teachers voting on the PS’s education reform back 1991) or now PTB, and both cannot seriously govern without the PS, and lack the professionalism the PS has gained.

Much more of an existential crisis for the PS is related to their previously unbreakable links with the FGTB, the dominant trade union in Wallonia, and second largest in Belgium. The FGTB had always been a key societal ally in ensuring the PS were strong in their industrial milieu. Now however the PS is increasingly accused of austerity by the union, and defections to the PTB within it pose a real problem.


Ideology
Despite what the PTB say, the PS is much more left-wing than its centre-left counterparts across Europe, at least in rhetoric, but also in the culture of the party (the Internationale is still sung after every election!). Economically they are the instigators of the so called “Marshall Plan for Wallonia”  favouring public spending increases to keep Walloon industries on life support. I’d associate their current economic strategy with Modern Monetary Theory or Post-Keynesianism, only their commitment to the Euro undermines their economic platform somewhat.

You may also remember that the PS blocked CETA with their cdH coalition partners on the regional level. Paul Magnette, head of the Walloon government said he didn’t want to be seen as the pin-up boy of alter-globalism after blocking the EU-Canada free trade deal, but this move was cynically interpreted as being a wink to the PTB’s new acolytes. In reality the rejection of CETA stems from the PS’s support of advocacy democracy over the kind of issues discussed in the treaty, as a way to expand their hegemony beyond the ouvrier class. The PS’s broad network of social movements, NGO’s unions, lobbies, etc. is also what makes it a formidable force (with other parties following suit). In this case, the non-governmental actors in the agricultural and health sectors pulled their weight. Their anger probably stems from having been snubbed for the negotiations by the Comission, while the larger industry representatives were allowed input.    

Socially, they are obviously much more accommodating on issues such as immigration, but I wouldn’t describe this issue as major for PS Walloons.  PS Walloons are far more concerned about social dumping than integration issue. In Brussels there is the issue of public security but the Right monopolise it enough for the PS to fall back on their commitment to the ethnic communities here.

On the Belgian state, they are now federalists, but are regularly charged with being the first to introduce “confederalism” in the political field by the N-VA. Basically briefly host of Walloon regionalist parties emerged and the PS fought on their territory (just like with ECOLO and now PTB) rather than opposing them.

Strongholds



The Walloon Industrial Belt (Sillon Industriel Wallon), once the most industrialised urban concentration in the world, is where the PS earn most their corn. Hainaut province, where the PS stronghold of Charleroi and Mons lies, is a historical coal mining district that suffered the consequences of energy transition and outsourcing. Its one of the poorest regions in Western Europe.

Liège-province has a history of revolt. It was a seperate entity from the proto-Belgian Spanish Netherlands, and ruled by a Prince-Bishop. It is in the context of full blown, unhibited Ancien Régime environment that liberal revolutionaries emerged around the same time as in France. The tradition continued with industrial change, and Liège became a culturally left-wing stronghold. The PS particularly does well in the old steel and manufacturing towns around the actual city proper, where MR are more present.


Key factions and figures:
The PS is structured across geographic/provincial lines and these tend to clash. For example, the recent problems in Liège and Di Rupo’s “intervention” have led Liège-based PS members to accuse the Hainaut PS of meddling and hypocrisy over corruption. Recently too, a new cleavage has emerged in the party, between the old generations and the younger elements who believe the former are suffering from institutional isomorphism, corruption and conservatism over certain issues.

Ex-PM Elio Di Rupo remains the poster-boy for the Socialist Party, although his leadership is under severe scrutiny for the moment. The son of an Italian immigrant family, whose father worked in the mines, Di Rupo’s rise to the top political office in Belgium (No, not mayor of Antwerp) is seen as a voting argument in itself for the Socialists. He is mainly representative of the PS in Hainaut, that is a wing quite adverse to change from their traditional message of the 1970s/1980s (avoid de “social blood bath of liberalism” as he put it in his highly successful 2010 federal campaign).

Paul Magnette is the head of the Walloon government, and former PS president, who attracted international headlines after leading the mediatic front against Belgium’s signature of CETA. Because powers of international trade are devolved to the Regional governments (who paradoxically handed them to the Comission without any fuss), the PS used its position in the Walloon government to re-establish itself as a sort of opposition to the currently heavily right-wing federal government. Before this though, Magnette made his name first as a scholar, and then in particular as the one who was drafted to reform Charleroi in the wake of their own corruption scandal back in 2006-2007. He is now mayor in absentia of the coal-mining city. He was perceived as a reformer and moderniser in the PS because of his work there, and has now tried to channel the hard but modernising but non-liberal but confusing Left.
  
Recent elections in Liège have displayed the power struggle in the province, between young and new. After the resignation of the head of the Liègois PS. The PS of Liège cannot be discussed without mentioning the now deceasedMichel Daerdenne, an immensly popular figure in the city rim and inner city who caused friction in the internal PS that lead him being put last on the list but still elected in 2009. Part of it stemmed from Daerdenne refusing to support the inclusion of Stéphane Moreau, a sort of would be Socialist Belursconi, as Mayor of his town in Liège. Daerdenne appeared to be a visionary given Moreau is at the heart of the Publifin scandal and just resigned from the PS.
 
Daerdenne's eventually caught up with him, but his son Frédéric and a few key allies are looking to preserve that somewhat more human, edgy style to Michel’s brand of socialism, as well as kick out the reformists.

Also running in the Liège PS election was José Happart, who is a fossil of the Rassemblement Wallon movement, and used to campaign particularly aggressively in Fourons/Voeren, where major ethnic tensions existed. He is part of a dying breed of Walloon regionalists who joined the PS. He lost along with the “young” challenger, to the PS establishment candidate Jean-Pierre Hupkens.
 
The Brussels PS places itself as a cultural left-wing force, emphasises global struggles (case in point : Saint-Gilles, a commune, deciding to block CETA before Wallonia thought it was cool) with now figures such as retired Molenbeek mayor Philippe Moureaux, but I will get to that when Brussels comes up. There used to be a Stalinist PS guy in South Brussels whose name I forget too.
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« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2017, 06:40:20 am »

Mouvement Réformateur (MR) – Reformist Movement
Mouvement Réformateur was initially created as a cartel incorporating 3 right to centrist parties looking to end PS hegemony in Wallonia and Brussels rather than supply it. The traditional party of the Liberal pillar, the PRL. The right-wing of the Christian Democratic pillar, the MCC, led by former PSC leader Gérard Deprez. And the Brussels francophone minority interest party, the FDF. Eventually the three decided on creating a common party structure, although FDF maintained its political identity though its leader, Olivier Maingain, and a few other fiefdoms of theirs in Brussels. FDF eventually split from MR after the 6th state reform in 2012, believing it to be too harsh on francophone interests in the Brussels peripherie, and a potential stepping stone to the end of the Belgian state. They have since rebranded themselves as Défi. Tensions between the MCC and the MR liberal wing were also apparent when the former presented a separate list in Liège, having been snubbed by the largely PRL-dominated party organs for that constituency. But a current federal ministerial portfolio seems to have appeased them.

MR currently sit in the Federal government for an upteenth consecutive term (I think since Verhofstadt I), but now as the sole Francophone party represented and as the largest overall political family with Open Vld. Power in Wallonia, however, remains elusive: they have finished second in every single Walloon regional election to the PS, and their apparent durability in the federal government mainly stems from their ability to negotiate with the more right-wing Flemish parties.

Ideology
MR sits in the Liberal faction of the European parliament and has fundamentally retained its classical liberal roots. An emphasis on fiscal responsible government, low taxes on income and capital, deregulation, etc. However, MR are much more situated, in rhetoric at least. around the social liberal platform, to compete with the PS in unconventional liberal places and the major cities.

On social issues, MR is quite liberal, although its Brussels wing is heavily engaged in public security debates, and considers immigration to be an issue to solve without descending into N-VA’s ambiguous-xenophobic undertones.

On the Belgian state, MR no longer really talk about this issue now that Défi has defected. Their strategy when entering coalition with the N-VA was to “black ball” any communitarian or institutional agenda while the coalition lasts – meaning only socio-economic issues are dealt with this federal government. I suspect that they will want to continue this strategy of avoiding the problem until actually facing it- very Belgian.


Strongholds



Brabant Wallon, a.k.a BéWérly Hills. Where the richest parts of Francophone society live, as well as high income earners in Brussels jobs. Places in BW like Charles Michel’s stronghold Wavre where the economy revolves around small enterprise are also easy picking. 
Then if you follow BW down to Namur and all the way to Champagne over Namur province you get a heavily strong trending MR vote. MR also fight cdH in rural parts of Hainaut (usually commuter towns to Brussels, Mons or Charelroi). And then around places in Eastern Liège-province like Spa. A lot of pensioners vote MR around there, including the Flemish ones, and the quality of life there is markedly better.

Key factions and figures:
MR have a social liberal line but the internal party is quite a mix. Recently, the factions that have dominated revolve around the two strongmen of the party, PM Charles Michel and Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders. Michel, son of PRL stalwart and former Comissioner Louis Michel, is more of a classical liberal, supported by a right-wing “Renaissance” faction that was angry with Reynders’s leadership. Reynders is more of a modern centre-right force, and his constituencies of Brussels and previously Liège means he is more of an urban Right that is not afraid to talk about issues such as the “Ghettoisation of Brussels’ districts”, but also quite social. It’s also a clash of personalities and styles as much as perspectives, much like the French Right (ugh).

Apart from that, there is a small social conservative wing that revolves around the MCC and people like the disgraced minister Jacqueline Galant. Because the far right is an utter shambles in Wallonia, MR tend to flirt a little with them, or more precisely, the far right tend to flirt with MR in the hope of changing it into a harder right. The result is a handful of nutjobs like Laurent Louis joining over the years, but they rarely make it up to the higher echelons. Louis defected to PP then made his own party loosely based on the French anti-semite Alain Soral’s Egalité et Réconciliation.

In Brussels, the hard right of the MR is represented by professional carpet-bagger Alain Destexhe, but his antics in Auderghem after attacking the popular Défi mayor Didier Gosuin, and his visit to Bachar Al Assad proved too much for MR so they have stripped him of his current party affiliation in Ixelles. Instead, MR’s key hegemons and rivals in Brussels are Vincent de Wolf (a Michel stooge) and Didier Reynders.
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« Reply #21 on: April 29, 2017, 07:06:58 am »

Centre Démocrate Humaniste (cdH) Democratic Humanist Centre
I have to admit I fail to see the point of this party. And there has been rumours of them looking for a merger with either FDF, Ecolo or both in a sort of centrist alliance. With Macron’s victory in France perhaps having an impact here in Wallonia (as I said earlier, a lot of Walloons seem more interested in French politics than their own), they could maybe pull it off. But people gave cdH their last rites in 2014 and they still managed to do well in Wallonia.

Anyway, the centre démocratique Humanistes are the successor party to the old Christian Social Party, which as you can see from Nanwe’s maps was powerful in Wallonia. After a series of routs in the 1990s though, the PSC decided to follow its Flemish counterpart in rebranding and modernising itself, but rather than swing to the communitarian right, they went for the “radical centrist” option, and took away any mention of confessional belief. Nevertheless, they protect the Catholic education system and what is left of their pillar, as well as entertaining strong links with the agricultural lobby.

cdH are largely perceived as a sattelite party for the PS by opponents given that they have helped the latter, even in times when it has lost its majority or had the choice to enter federal power. A large part of this stems from the influence of the Catholic trade union in the party ranks. Furthermore, their removal of any Christian denomination has led to accusation of trying to pander to Muslim votes, in particular, around Brussels.

Ideology
Cdh call themselves radical centrists but are probably more left of centre, due to the utter desertion of their previously right-wing voters to MR. They distinguish themselves from the Socialist pillar by focussing on associative christian social activism rather that the PS’s big state solutions.
Socially, Cdh have been somewhat critical of an overly liberal social agenda, without holding anyone to ransom over it. They are mainstream in immigration rhetoric

On communitarian issues, I would place them as historically more stubborn than MR, and heavily committed to a Belgian identity.

Strongholds


People connected to the Catholic pillar are quite spread out. The place where the cdH is most hegemonic (and where their leader hails from) is Luxemburg province, with its agricultural sector. Their work in the Walloon capital Namur on a local level also means they do quite well there, and in general in small Ardennes where people are too poor/scared of change to vote MR and not culturally Left enough to vote PS.

Key figures
Benoit Lutgen is their leader, his heavy Ardennes accent and image as an honest, tell it as it is kind of guy make him a favourite with the rump of the party down south. He has an insane preference vote count down there.

Joelle Milquet is their ex-leader and strongwoman in Brussels. She was known to the Flemish as “Madame Non” because of her stubborn stance on BHV. Melchior Wathelet Jr.’s efforts though on the Brussels flight plan were so hapless that Cdh lost their third place in Brussels to Défi, and its very hard to see a future in the Capital for them.

Maxime Prévot will be bidding to hold on to his Namur stronghold in the next locals and is seen as the new, hopeful generation for cdH.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2017, 10:16:53 am by Rogier »Logged
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« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2017, 07:09:33 am »

ECOLO
ECOLO stands for (translated in French) “Confederated ecologists for the organisation of original struggles” - a stunning acronym if I’ve seen one. Ecolo are a Green party that made their breakthrough on Zwarte Zondag/Dimanche Noir/Black Tuesday. Amidst the general support for neo-fascists, paternalists and separatists, ECOLO managed to campaign on the issue of the incumbents’ education reforms in Wallonia, attracted a lot of votes from disgruntled teacher’s. Ever since they have been a useful party for disgruntled left-wingers, although clearly a new generation of voters, potentially across Europe, are identifying themselves as ecologists first and left-wingers second.
Unsurprisingly, the vote for ECOLO comes from the class of low-level technocrats, academia, and a few bobo areas in Brussels, as well as a few specific areas where they tend to do well (outer rim Liège, with places like Ans, that revolve around ex-leader Javaux’s good governance).

ECOLO have stumbled both times they have been near government. Under Verhofstadt I, they were by far the most left-wing party and appeared to annoy the liberal family the most. Both they and AGALEV (groen) suffered losses. And ECOLO’s decision to form a Walloon government around an increasingly unpopular PS in 2009 was badly seen by their ex-PS voters looking for an alternative, and they made matters worse when they ballsed up their Energy portfolio by massively subsidising costly solar panels, only to see their value drop in the private market by 30%, costing the Walloon taxpayer a fair amount of money. This partly explains ECOLO’s poor performance in the 2014 election. Another was their horrific leadership.

In Brussels, ECOLO have been somewhat resilient but mainly benefit from the Brussels flight plan, polution and mobility being such a salient issue.

Ideology
Yeah, I think its easy to guess where these stand. They have quite an eclectic mix but the Walloon ecolo dominates so much that ECOLO is seen as to the left of the PS as opposed to Groen or Die Grunen's ambiguity

As the acronym components suggest, ECOLO does welcome a lot of different advocacy groups.

And they are federalist.

Strongholds



They appear to have done well in the German-speaking areas and I think Liège in general is a traditionally good hunting ground of disgruntled PS voters, revolutionary tradition and a cosmopolitan feel. They do really poorly in old mining towns in Hainaut.

Decent scores in Brabant Wallon are due to Brussels commuters (who probably hate the level of infrastructure in the region and the way the RER has been handled), Louvain-La-Neuve (a new city built entirely for the university split – so students and academics), and a general lack of PS presence anywhere there other than Nivelles.

Key figures

ECOLO have a joint leadership system, usually composed of both sexes and both regions of francophone Belgium. Their current female leader is Zhakia Khattabi, from the Brussels district of Ixelles, who impressed in the Community parliament and was rewarded with the task of reviving Ecolo. The Walloon male is Patrick Dupriez, he has less of a mediatic presence, but focuses on the slightly less glamourous issue of agriculture and is trying to target the rural poor and the anti-CETA agricultural lobbies.

Jean-Marc Nollet is their head of faction and Calvo/Klaver equivalent. He suffered from a lot of stick due to the energy commission but seems more comfortable in his role as opposition with Calvo.

Jean-Michel Javaux is mayor of Ans and helps the ECOLO cause in that area. A very popular figure over there I gather.

Phillipe Lamberts is the head of the Green faction in the European parliament (with the German Ska Keller). A former banker and ex-councillor in Anderlecht, he is the old disciple of Verhofstadt-I heavyweight Isabelle Durant before he beat her to head ECOLO’s list last European elections. He recently sparked controversy over the disclosure of how his religious views help him in politics. But he is clearly respect at a local and European level, enough to resist the internal party criticism.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 08:54:58 am by Rogier »Logged
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« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2017, 05:45:16 pm »

Thanks Rogier, that's fascinating.

What is up with the relative PS stronghold on the French border in Luxemburg province? I had a quick look and there doesn't seem to much there at all in the way of population centres.

I have to admit I have little knowledge of this area. However looking at the locals in Boullion it appears the PS have quite a strong local candidate, and the area itself is relatively poor, favouring PS-cdH, unlike East Luxembourg which looks more MR-cdH. With those population figures its hard to say, it just takes a few hundred votes to swing one way or some dodgy clientelism. The MR stronghold Northwest of there in the Belgian Champagne region is more interesting. It is home to the French capital gains tax evaders and a tourism industry that favours MR. A sort of rural Uccle.

Quote
Also, I think I read somewhere recently that Wallonia is actually growing faster that Flanders at the moment, is that something that people are starting to experience, or does any sign of revitalisation still seem along way off?

Assuming you mean GDP, the most recent articles I have seen have shown Flanders growing faster because they are much better exporters to Europe in general. Now, there is a lot of potential of growth in Wallonie, but this is really because Wallonia's economy was under-capacity and was in dire need of investment to boost demand. So the PS Marshall Plan (which I think they meant to market as the New Deal) is actually a good idea in theory to reach full capacity.

The real issue in Wallonia is that their industrial strategy is still woefully unsuitable, as the recent Caterpillar closures in Charleroi have shown. Magnette still thinks Wallonia can compete with Germany and Britain in high-level industry (i,e specialist, high human capital intensive) through subsidies but there is still a massive human capital gap and cost of labour that hurts them vis-a-vis these countries. And their service strategy varied from linking Brussels and Luxemburg City, to creating a "Dyle-icon Valley" of internet enterprises in the middle of nowhere, as if internet yuppies would flock to the banks of the Dyle and live in a rural village.

These last two measures are at least better than putting inefficient industries on life support, but Wallonia's infrastructure is so bad its nigh-impossible without major investment. You can imagine who is blamed for the lack of investment in Wallonia. The recent high speed train for example, 368 million euros for Flemish infrastructure, 53 million for Wallonia.
https://www.rtbf.be/info/monde/detail_la-wallonie-s-estime-grugee-et-demande-une-revision-du-plan-rer?id=9593382

The kind of policy that made the PS an advocate of confederalism in the 80s.

But blaming is a national sport in this country, so I won't go further.
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« Reply #24 on: May 01, 2017, 09:19:56 am »

1rst of may a big day for most Belgian parties due to their links with the unions. They've all unveiled different political plans in the hope of convincing they represent the working man or woman of the street.
The biggest news is that Raoul Hedebouw, the popular spokesperson of PTB, has been stabbed in the arse.
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