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  Talk Elections
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  Belgian Politics & Elections: Federal Election May 26, 2019 (search mode)
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Author Topic: Belgian Politics & Elections: Federal Election May 26, 2019  (Read 50573 times)
Zinneke
JosepBroz
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« Reply #50 on: October 15, 2017, 10:12:11 am »
« edited: November 15, 2017, 03:53:47 am by coloniac »

So, a few updates for my containement thread.

One is that sp.a and Groen have now decided to merge their lists in Antwerpen despite the polls above showing it wasn't necessary or effective. But sp.a have got an ex-police commisioner from Mechelen in with a background in intercommunity relations to take second in the list, and the first will be Groen's Meryem Almaci. I think this is a very bad move because the sp.a brand is too tarnished (rightly or wrongly). But they maintain that coming first over N-VA is more important, and I'm looking forward to see whether red-red-green works at a local level as it may influence my vote. Here's an interesting article in De Tijd (my favorite source for flemish news) on the difference between an N-VA commune (Antwerp) and an sp.a-groen commune (Gent). Sorry its in Dutch : https://www.tijd.be/politiek-economie/belgie-vlaanderen/Het-Antwerpse-versus-het-Gentse-model/9942612

PS have decided Ahmed Laaouej should be the replacement for Onkelinkx as their head in parliament, potentially making him a favorite to follow her as head of the Brussels PS. He's a very strong parliamentarian and party-official. I also think he is a more compromising figure, given the Brussels PS's historical split between now-retired Molenbeek mayor Phillippe Moureaux (of whom Onkelinkx was a disciple), who was very left-wing and on the other side more "bobo" cultural left ex-Minister-President Charles Picqué. So, as usual these PS power struggles are about internal personality contests rather than visions for their communities. I don't think Laaouej is very inspiring. And amidst all this is the SamuSocial scandal related to PS local politicians paying themselves silly money with a federal-funded homelessness charity for attending two meetings a month. Nice.  

On Wednesday, there was a general strike from the unions over the federal government's general "neo-liberal" policies, without any specific mention to policy, but mainly related to the retirement age about to be upped, the skipping of "indexation" (salaries in Belgium must be adjusted to inflation…which makes no sense IMO but given how capital intensive society is becoming it might help just as they start to scrap it). It was mainly organised by the Socialist unions with close ties to the PS. It also organised a meeting in Namur with Di Rupo, Magnette and Rudy Demotte  that was interpreted by the media as a dictation of the union demands, that if not adopted, would force them to concentrated on helping the PTB. In general there has been strong criticism of the union's political interference, particularly in the North of the country.



Anyway, time to get the teeth sunk into Liège, and Greater Liège in general. Note the differing levels of what I may to refer Liège :

   - The city of Liège, which is Wallonia's second largest commune, and is currently in the hands of mayor Willy de Meyer. Its borders have enlarged considerably
   - Metropolitan Liège, with is a continuous urban sprawl in the Meuse valley/Maasvallei that developed during the massive intensive industrialisation waves, making it Wallonia's largest urban area.  
   - Province of Liège, who borders roughly correspond to the old principality of Liège, a polity that existed for the good part of a thousand years separate from the previous incarnation of "Belgium", the Spanish/Austrian Netherlands. Joined later against the Dutch in 1830, led by future Liberal PM, Charles Rogier, who marched to Brussels with around 200 drunks to join the Flemish/Brabant elite in the fight against Orangisme.

 
   
Liège province is marked by several phenomena that forms its separate political identity. One is the previous allusion to a different identity to the rest of Belgium, and one of the few regions of Wallonia (I would say with Champagne and the German-speakers) to resist what is known as "Belgicism", the idea of a unitary Belgian state and the top-down formation of a centralising Belgian identity. Most of the support of the Rassemblement Wallon was found here, and their strongman José Happart defecting to the PS undoubtedly shaped the regionalist aspects of the Walloon working class in Liege. There's a great interview with Happart where he says his confederal model for governing Belgium was ahead of its time and that Liege should never been a part of Belgium.

Second, the urban expansion of their city along the river Meuse/Maas and its rapid industrialisation meant that, unlike the Flemish towns that were spared such a horror, Liège is known for its incredibly cramped, poorly maintained suburbs built for the waves of local, national then international immigrant workers for its heavy industry. The initial poor working and living conditions made PS labour movement hegemony here a walk in the park. The more bourgeois MR voting areas were largely in the north of the city (Rocourt), outside the Valley, or in the east (around Spa).  

All this to say that federal and local elections alike in Metropolitan Liège are largely linked to the local  political culture and ongoings surrounding the city itself, which was the economic heartbeat of the province. These "ongoings" have recently revolved around the extent of the PS's hegemony and links with the private sector. On the one hand, you had Michel Daerden, a wealthy businessman who was largely deemed a caricature of the Liège PS : charming, popular, also a heavy drinking problem, with shady conflicts of interest. And on the other you had party loyalists like Jean-Claude Marcourt, Alain Mathot or Willy Demeyer, who quietly opposed the antics of Daerdenne and stated that his links to the private sector were too strong and were hurting the party image. Aided by Daerden's number 2, Stéphane Moureau, a "Bande à Cinq" (Gang of Five) essentially deposed him and his son on grounds of conflict of interest, taking his mayorality and his "head of list" position in the constituency. It didn't stop Daerden dad and son getting elected due to their popularity in 2010 and 2014 respectively. The dad has since passed away (here is a highlight reel for french speakers):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kgqco4YSpAQ

Because of the policy overlap between the communes, Belgian law allowed the communes to set up "intercommunales", public holding companies that dealt with local issues (like you energy prices or urban planning in an inter-communal context - as if there were not enough layers of governance in Belgium). It turns out one of them in Liège, Publifin, was a massive honeypot for Stéphane Moureau's Néthys company. He helped set up "fake" meetings where politicians of all stripes would be awarded several hundred grand, and in exchange Néthys was given "portfolios" by the politicians such as energy deals at high prices. So needless to say if you followed the money it ended up with the tax payer footing the bill.

Thus, the proposed inner-PS "coup" from Daerden's mild hegemonic corruption that was never proved, ended up with a cross-party corruption case that has made the "traditional" parties pariahs in Liège province, and especially the PS led by Marcourt and Moureau. Moureau, as the architect of Publifin, has resigned in disgrace from his mayorality in Ans. But figures such as Alain Mathot are still incumbents in Seraing, and Demeyer is still mayor of the city. His prospects are not looking good though, with a Raoul Hedebouw-led PTB list in their stride :



(Also a bit of a shame the small party VEGA have lost out to PTB as I would consider voting for them.
Not sure what happened but I imagine it has something to do with PTB's rise.)

To truly see the salience of the Publifin issue in the province, it will be important to look at how Daerden's son, Frédéric, does in Herstal. If he resists the PTB in this commune, then it should be good news for the PS brand. If not, it means the PS image as a whole is toast in the Province for the foreseeable future. How Mathot does in Seraing is also important, as that place is now probably considered PTB heartland and could be their first major scalp.  
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Zinneke
JosepBroz
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« Reply #51 on: October 16, 2017, 05:25:18 pm »
« Edited: October 16, 2017, 05:31:35 pm by coloniac »


Verts et a Gauche, one of the myriad of parties attempting to fill a void between ECOLO and PTB that unfortunately does not seem to fill up in a region it could do well in. ECOLO has had some tensions in the past and present between "laïque" and "non-laïque" members because of the influx of christian and muslim social movements and thus cdH voters. Its led to their "watermelon" members sometimes attempting to break off and form alternatives. Bernard Wesphael's Mélenchoniste Mouvement de Gauche being the most successful until he was arrested for his wife's murder, later acquitted. And just this week in Brussels two councillors defected towards Défi over concerns with ECOLO´s stance on religion.

VEGA was more grassroots and local than MG though, founded by an ex-Parti Communiste Belge member in Liege and an urban planner who managed to get elected in the Liege commune. It emerged around the same time as PTB due to the absolute mess ECOLO left during their stint in Wallonia's regional government, but I think PTB have just bulldozed the entire radical left.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #52 on: October 17, 2017, 09:44:08 am »
« Edited: October 17, 2017, 09:56:12 am by coloniac »

It appears that VEGA and Mouvement de Gauche have merged into one movement called Demain. They are headed by Vincent Delcory, who was the most prominent ECOLO defector to VEGA.

Anyway, new polls (pics taken from DeStandaard)
http://m.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20171016_03135078

Flanders


Wallonia



Brussels


At this rate it looks like I'm going to have to vote on the Flemish list in a Brussels regional election. It is worth it otherwise the N-VA with their MASSIVE 3,9% might have to be considered for a coalition. Another fcucked up aspect of Belgian politics.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #53 on: October 17, 2017, 10:28:42 am »

What's up with the sudden increase in the Ecolo numbers?


1. ECOLO and Défi were the big mediatic winners over the summer because they were against the cdH "coup" but managed to offer a list of reforms that are attractive and remain constructive. PTB sort of faded into broken record territory. Anti-corruption is now their salient issue.
2. ECOLO are the party most likely to benefit from leftwing cdH voters unhappy with the new MR-cdH Walloon government.
3. They tend to do better in local and European elections because there is less responsibility attached and they tend to care about the urban planning, environment/ air pollution issues, etc
4. They are leading in Brussels-City polls for the moment; In Brussels local politics, there is the issue of mobility setbacks, and air pollution, as well as PS corruption.

Note for point 1 though that this poll was conducted before the revelations this week of a semi-prominent ECOLO member collecting a salary from an anti-nuclear power NGO when he had not worked for them for several years. Given ECOLO are also associated with a lot of these (ironically named) ASBL there might be more cases like this.

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Zinneke
JosepBroz
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« Reply #54 on: October 18, 2017, 06:00:23 pm »

Welcome to the forum and to the thread Cheesy. I'd also be skeptic about some of the polling in Wallonia-Brussels, the most striking example being the "PTB largest party" poll I posted which was apparently garbage that was supposed to grab headlines. Still I imagine most here understand the margin of errors that can make such dreams possible.

This one I just posted though was not conducted by newcomers? It was apparently done by a polling company that has been used by the VRT since 2002 (TNS Kantar). However, the francophone sample is brand new as RTBF/LaLibre are not using their previous samples for comparison, which may be why there is some degree of skepticism to be had.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #55 on: October 26, 2017, 03:56:40 pm »
« Edited: October 26, 2017, 05:26:46 pm by coloniac »

Nice "interactive" map of average incomes per commune as per RTBF's website.

https://www.rtbf.be/info/economie/detail_dans-quelles-communes-les-revenus-sont-ils-les-plus-hauts-notre-carte-interactive?id=9747388


I wrote a big update post but the main takes from this week are VLD breaking away from sp.a at Gent's local level in favour of N-VA, and the re-opening of the Brabant Killings case. Scary stuff.

EDIT : Oh and ECOLO have now been caught up with a similar corruption scandal to Publifin. Some elected official paid 25k for 8 "meetings" in a public-funded intercommunale.

Time to get rid of them all.
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Zinneke
JosepBroz
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« Reply #56 on: November 15, 2017, 04:03:03 pm »
« Edited: November 16, 2017, 04:50:35 am by coloniac »

Introduction to Brussels
 

 
Some news from here that might actually reach the press (other than harbouring the Catalan Premier - but that is a whole other can of worms). Riots in Brussels after Morocco qualified for the World Cup and in Place de La Monnaie today. Morroccan-Belgians rioted in the Bourse/Beurs square, and an apparently planned riot near Gare du Midi. While it doesn't have the scale of some previous events (the 2006 riots), it was in central Brussels and has opened policy windows on public security. And then of course there is the controversy over the mayor's response.    
 
The mayor of Brussels-City, Phillippe Close, has been criticised for his lack of response to the riots, apparently instructing the police not to engage. Close is a party apparatchik that inherited the mayoralty after the unpopular Yvan Mayeur was caught up in the SamuSocial scandal, where Mayeur was being paid 5 figure sums of federal-funded money for meetings that did not exist. SamuSocial is a homeless charity that he helped set up alongside Pascal Peraïta, another PS politician implicated in the scandal.  
 

 
 
Close's competences as mayor include the management of the police. Now, this is where we start to enter Brussels surrealism : the 19 communes all used to have their own police zones. I was indeed once mugged in Ixelles as a teenager. When I went to my police station, the answer was : "could have happened in Jette for all I care". Why? Because Belgian policing is funded based on how many crimes you rapport. The less crimes, the more funding you get. Start to see the problem?
 
 
At one point the Brussels political class did start to see the problem.  So they merged the police zones into 6, but not the communes. The Constitution still afforded the communes the same powers over policing. So now some policing matters are decided by several mayors in council with each other. Close however has the bulk of responsibility for his police zone, that is basically Brussels-city and Ixelles.
 

 
  
The 19 communes
So we get to the situation we have now : a regional government with an artificially bloated number of representatives due to the "Flemish" minority, along with 19 mayors, all with their own interests and massive egos, 6 police zones, and a myriad of "ASBL" charities like SamuSocial that operate as parallel public services. Brussels is an institutional mess.    
 
Why do the 19 communes exist in such a small metropolitan area? Simply because the political class in Brussels-region, like everywhere where such systems exist, use the communes as fiefdoms to clientelise their electorates. Some communes even have these neo-feudal family networks, where a name is enough to get you elected. There is also the communitarian aspect. You see, unlike the Brussels regional government, Flemish parties do not have a guaranteed amount of seats in the communal colleges (but do have executive influence). Thus, francophone parties see the communes as the last line of defence against Flemish encroachment over Brussels. Finally, richer/well managed communes mainly in the South East of Brussels do not want to subsidise the poorer communes, some of which are in severe debt.
 
 
What are the 2018 local elections going to be fought on if all stays the same? Governance reform, mobility and public security/immigration - fairly similar to what a federal election in Brussels is fought on. Thus, the tribunitien parties, the traditional party "rebels" that get put "down the list" and Flemish parties will all be looking to distinguish themselves from the traditional Brussels party apparatchiks like Clos.
 
The challengers
ECOLO-Groen and Défi already made a pact on governance reform in Brussels when that policy window shattered open in the summer, but you can expect Défi to want to maintain the 19 communes because of their clientelist networks and, it must be said, their good work in Auderghem and Schaerbeek benefiting them in federal and regional elections. They (ECOLO and Défi) are probably going to be the big winners in Brussels-city, that is currently governed by PS-MR. They'll also be looking to regain a foothold in the Canal communes (Molenbeek, Koekelberg, Anderlecht) where they have done poorly in the past few elections given their potential there.  This is how they looked in 2014
 

 

 
 
NB  You can really see the correlations the communal elections on their later federal scores for small parties. Watermael-Boistfort became ECOLO´s only mayorality, and FDF/Défi seem to only do well in places they have mayors.
 
 
PTB is also a potential force in Brussels, albeit a different character than in Wallonia. Brussels polls show PTB does particularly well with the high educated, low paid young voters. Unlike Wallonia, Brussels urban proletariat has by and large disappeared, so expect the bobo/alternative areas of Saint-Gilles - a major communist think-tank on its own- , Ixelles, Forest and parts of Schaerbeek as PTB places. The question is really how they can turn their federal profile into a local one in Brussels, where they are not as well implanted as in Liege.
 

 
 
cdH are mainly present in the North west. There's a high concentration of catholic schools, catholic educated and its just a traditional client-based relationship. But who knows what is going to happen to them, particularly in Brussels where their stance has been to oppose Lutgen´s coup against the PS. This north-west area is also home to the largest flemish-speaking minorities. So the Flemish parties tend to also do better here, getting up to 17% of the vote according to npdata.be :
 

 
Note however that Flemish parties are starting to be chosen by francophones. This phenomena started in 1999 when VB ran a francophone head of list on anti-immigration platform and secured a plurality in the Flemish college. Local elections should mean the phenomenon is harder to pull off this time round, but all the Flemish parties now know they have to appeal to the whole electorate, and must start now as there is not a better opportunity.
  
 
The end of PS-MR rule in the inner city-outer city?
For PS, it will be about holding on to what they have. Already the cracks started to show when they lost Molenbeek to MR after years of immigration mismanagement from Phillippe Moureaux, who initially was elected saying he would stop the numbers - only to end up encouraging them. Remember, this is the commune where not one but two major terrorist attacks were planned by Djihadis, and the Beavis and Butthead of the Lowlands' far right, Wilders and Dewinter, wanted to do an islamsafari last week. Molenbeek has some quite affluent districts though, that was enough to help MR over the line with an "anyone but PS" vote. PS may see their vote collapse though in non-suburban Brussels : Old Molenbeek, Brussels-city (old PS/sp.a strongholds Marolles and Daensart), Ixelles, Saint-Gilles, Anderlecht, inner Schaerbeek. This could be terminal for the establishment figures in Brussels PS.    
 

 
MR will no doubt duke it out with Défi in their traditional richer, heavily francophone communes in the South East, as well as upper Brussels-city, the right half of the Hexagone that forms the medieval town.
 

 
 Although, as it should be noted, every commune in Brussels seems to have its own story, its own personal grudges and gentlemen's agreement. Even the Brussels party federations often cannot control what goes on in their local branches, at all. So, I will wait until the lists are published and the campaign starts to do a full profile of each commune. Hopefully I have confused you enough to get a feel of Brussels politics.
 
All maps from npdata.be For the Dutch speakers, its worth checking out his post on Brussels after the 2014 election and his post on how the immigrant vote will count double in communal election :
 
http://www.npdata.be/BuG/227-Verkiezingen-2014-2/Verkiezingen-2014-2.htm
 
http://www.npdata.be/BuG/372-Verkiezingen/Verkiezingen.htm
 
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Zinneke
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« Reply #57 on: November 16, 2017, 03:46:58 am »
« Edited: December 02, 2017, 07:02:04 am by coloniac »

Aren't there a handful of Muslim parties in Brussels?

One to my knowledge, the ISLAM party, which had 1 councillor elected in Anderlecht and 1 in Molenbeek in the last locals. It garnered 2% overall in Brussels last federal election. There has also been a bunch of parties relating to islamic community interests in the past, one amusingly called PCP, and another that the PTB, back when it was a Stalinist sect, allied itself too and lost half its councillors. There is also a DENK equivalent in Flanders now led by an ex-sp.a member, they might have a run at the Flemish college in Brussels where it would be easier to get elected.  

However, what you do find is a lot of local party branches try to pander to more religious driven groups by being very lax on issues such as freedom of religion (animal welfare, for example). ECOLO is Brussels suffered the two defections I mentioned because they thought that the party was going too far into a defence of the Islamic community rather than sticking to their core values. Specific wings and local branches of the PS and cdH have also been guilty of this for some time now. But it varies from commune to commune.

With regards to the riots though (I am not saying you are linking Islam to this, but I can imagine some inevitably will), the first one seems to be linked to a Belgian-Morrocan rapper calling on his local fanbase to go wild*, and the second one was because some French snapchatter comedian asked people to come "put the fire"* with him at Monnaie. A group of 12-15 year olds turned out in numbers and reacted badly to the police being there after Saturday.  In this case, and the case of the Borgerhout troubles in Antwerp it has little directly to do with the Islamic issue and more to do with specific micro-level communities in the cities (the plurality of which are Belgian nationals whose parents are from rural Morrocco with no education and even less qualified to be parents, that bring their kids up in bubbles).  

*The way they phrase it in French slang makes it ambiguous as to whether they mean violence or just going wild (as in to party). In the case of the rapper its probably the former, the comedian the latter.
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Zinneke
JosepBroz
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« Reply #58 on: December 02, 2017, 07:00:11 am »
« Edited: December 02, 2017, 07:08:10 am by coloniac »

A few developments.

Corruption in Antwerp
The N-VA are now facing their own corruption scandal in Antwerp. Basically, their ties to a construction company were just a little too tight. De Wever is at the centre of it, with him and his entire team attending a birthday banquet of a leading constructor in Antwerp, who as it turns out had one of their employees become a member of De Wever's staff, just as De Wever waved through a plan for a high rise that said employee designed, and would technically be illegal.

The sp.a leader in Antwerp came out with an editorial criticising what he called "immocratie" at the local level in Antwerp : the proximity of the relationships between the construction sites and the mayors who approve the urban planning is much too close.  This applies to much of Belgium local politics though, a lot of stuff gets done through "pots de vins" lobbying - nice expensive gifts - and a revolving door to put your mates from the private sector in positions of power.
   
PS realignment
The PS needed positive headlines so they decided to converge and have a discussion over politics rather than personal feuds. The result was a conference where they set out 170 policy propositions as part of their shift towards the economic left (they are preparing for opposition). You can read them here in French : https://les170engagements.squarespace.com/

More interesting that their vague promises is the fact that some provincial branches of the PS are now starting to fall back on its previous regionalist identity, just as its Brussels wing (who are obviously opposed to this) are in disarray after Onkelinx's departure.  


Communitarian violence turns into communitarian squabbling
Finally, the fallout of the riots has been that the Flemish parties are now seizing the policy window opening to propose the fusion of the communes, and at the same time reignite the communitarian flames over Brussels. It is being increasingly suggested that as part of a state reform there should be police zone and commune mergers in Brussels while simultaneously asking for a scission of the justice system between Brussels and its periphery due to the overload of cases. This of course will reignite the periphery debate that plagued the 2007-2012 political crisis.

sp.a have already started their Brussels campaign on reforming the mess, while the N-VA are also getting into election mode for Brussels as a way to divert from Antwerp. They have already indicated that they will not enter any regional government that doesn't address the commune system. It’s a bad strategic move from the Flemish parties and particularly the N-VA IMO for two reasons : one, it entrenches the francophone parties, that, although hated just as much by the Brussels population, can regroup if they present the debate as "Brussels being governed by N-VA and friends vs Brussels being governed by us".

Two, by radicalising itself and by standing just before local elections on institutional matters, N-VA is actually harming Flemish party representation more than helping it. In heavily francophone Auderghem, for example, where Didier Gosuin's Défi has an absolute majority, the "Samen" party for the Flemish only just reached the threshold to obtain a seat, and Gosuin allowed them to obtain a place on the CPAS/OCMW (public assistance) board. If the N-VA syphons votes from the Dutch-speaking cartels across Brussels, while these continue to ask for a commune merger, all of the Flemish parties will be personae non grata to the francophone parties. Only Groen now, who adopted the sensible tactic of forming a bilingual list with ECOLO, are not in danger of being excluded from local executives and majorities.  


Taxation in Belgium

A little post I wrote a few weeks back on a recent diplomatic squabble with our Northern noisy neighbours, over Mark Rutte's "Belgian has no multinationals left" claim.

While Belgium has quite high income tax for top brackets of labour income, its taxation on sitting capital is notoriously low, thus attracting a sizeable population of French and Dutch tax exiles, but as Dutch PM Mark Rutte pointed out (only in a ridiculous manner), its taxation policy on mobile capital (such as dividends tax) means it has lost out to its neighbour somewhat. Then again, Rutte maybe needs reminding that its easier to provide high quality public services and low taxation if you have natural gas reserves.  

Anyway, the federal government set out to reform this and make multinationals more open to coming in Belgium, but also some relaxation on labour income tax for employees, so as to not look like total corporate whores. However, It has emerged that the taxpayer will only benefit 30-50 euros per month to the average household, a somewhat underwhelming figure. This is because the economically liberal parties in government have now realised that tax cuts on labour income and tackling the budget deficit are incompatible policies when Belgium already has one of the highest public debt-to-GDP in the Eurozone. The only way to fund a tax cut was to shift the income tax from employment to idle capital, hence the tax shift.

 So the issue with the tax shift from the economic Left's perspective is that it is mainly benefiting big multinationals rather than the employees themselves, and that money might simply benefit shareholders rather than create jobs. On the other hand, the federal government has made some interesting incentives for job creation, particular if you're just entering the labour market. They've effectively managed to preserve a reasonable income for graduate jobs compared to the more Wild West zero-hour countries, in exchange for tax breaks on the first employee hired.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #59 on: December 10, 2017, 05:31:19 am »
« Edited: December 10, 2017, 05:35:54 am by coloniac »

New polls are out and they are largely similar.

VB are up and sp.a are melting away in Flanders.

The ECOLO surge is a little down, epsecially in Brussels, and there is too much volatility in Wallonia-Brux to make any solid conclusion. N-VA look likely to dominate the Dutch electoral college in Brussels, although I think this is a reaction to the riots. MR have also lost top spot due to the mismanagement of several dossiers including the "Eurostadium".

Small parties actually make a staggering 11% in Bxl and 13% in Wallonia but the pollsters still don't want to take notice.

More interestingly, Delwit has released this as a potential seat distribution.



Note how the small party surge doesn't translate to seats, because, like white votes, if they don't meet the threshold they are discounted altogether, benefiting the larger parties.

We would probably end up with another right-wing "Swedish" coalition with cdH outside support, even though this party has again clearly indicated it is not comfortable governing with the N-VA.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #60 on: December 13, 2017, 06:46:20 am »
« Edited: December 13, 2017, 08:23:39 am by coloniac »

Its both an indication as to how sedentary and provincial-minded the political culture still is in Belgium, and why the N-VA claimed to have abandoned state reform : people don't care as much as they did.

So, while there is a lot of bleeding heart sympathy for the "poor Catalans vs the Francoist police" (we are also a separatist state after all, and even our capital has a peripheral inferiority complex), it will never go as far as to actively mobilise for a revision of Europe's borders, because most people don't have that political animal within them, and the others are diehard Flemish nationalists who have a different conception of how to go about state breakup.

Flemish nationalism is a top-down elite-driven, gradualist operation that, in the words of both Yves Leterme and De Wever, strives for a situation where one day Belgians wake up to find that Belgium no longer exists, but do not notice it in their everyday life.  Its telling that the Catalan nationalists managed to mobilise 45.000 people in the freezing rain and wind in the "Flemish capital", when the Flemish national movement has barely ever mustered a single mass demo at the height of the political crises here in Belgium.

Contrast that with the Catalan nationalist bottom-up fervor for an electoral exercise to determine independence, a subsequent declaration and a "Day of Independence" for them to celebrate. This may partially have to do with the fact that the only way for Catalan nationalists to change the Statute is to either have a supermajority in the parliament (nigh-impossible) or, as they are trying to do now, force constitutional change via such a demonstration of political will. Flemish parties will always have a much greater say in the political future of their region, and thus prefer to bide their time. But Catalan nationalism is much more revolutionary.


Federal government crisis over energy accords
Anyway, the N-VA has rejected the plan drawn up by the four energy ministers of Belgium (yes, Belgium has 4 energy ministers, 5 if you include the EU Commissioner).

For the moment, a large part of Belgium´s energy mix originates from their two nuclear power plants in Flanders (Doel, where there is also an abandoned town for those who like Urbex) and in Wallonia (Tihange). The latter in particular has been a source of great political controversy, since environmental lobby groups from across the Euroregion it is based in (Aachen, Dutch and Belgian Limburg, Ostbelgien*, and to a lesser extent Liège-Province) believe that it is a security risk, and want it shut down immediately. This could also explain the pretty staggering results for ECOLO in OstBelgien. Just a quick glance at the Belgian energy mix shows that immediate shut-down is unrealistic.  


(in the pie chart, pink is nuclear, green is renewable, red is gas, coal is black and at a measly 2%)
source : IEA

N-VA have historically opposed the plan drawn up when the Greens were in power under Verhofstadt I, that is to phase out nuclear in the medium term. The current timetable has Nuclear being phased out by 2025, and the N-VA believe this target is unrealistic without a price hike and potential shortages (which I am inclined to agree with), especially as diesel-powered central heating will also be illegal by then.

However, the uncertainty that the N-VA causes by having a "flexible timetable" on nuclear power means that renewable energy investors are reluctant to enter the Belgian energy market. And with all the francophone parties coming out with their own brand of "eco-socialism/humanism/liberalism", it’s essentially a dig at them and Groen by claiming that their intention is to put more euros on the end of month energy bill.  

EDIT : and here is a NYT article explaining the corruption found in the energy sector and the power of the nuclear lobby.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/world/europe/belgium-electricity.html

*This is the term the German-speaking cantons want to be referred as from now on. Bless them.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #61 on: December 15, 2017, 10:57:52 am »
« Edited: December 15, 2017, 11:05:24 am by coloniac »

https://www.politico.eu/article/pascal-smet-brussels-is-like-a-whore-says-minister/


Controversial Brussels mobility Minister Pascal Smet is under pressure to resign after comparing the city to a "whore" and saying the leadership (presumably his own cabinet colleagues) are "dinosaurs". This comes after Juncker singled out Brussels as the only capital he knew that wasn't liked by other citizens in the country. (Who is going to tell him about "ach Berlin", Michel Onfray, Lega Nord, the Catalan crisis, etc?).
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« Reply #62 on: December 16, 2017, 11:06:16 am »
« Edited: December 16, 2017, 11:37:30 am by coloniac »

Looks like ex-PM Di Rupo is on the brink of losing the PS leadership before he could lead them to electoral defeat, after a prominent Solidaris member (Socialist mutuality) called for him to step down and Thierry Bodson, the head, agreed (without being explicit because he can't be seen to be interfering).

The contest will most likely be between Paul Magnette and, I predict, Jean-Claude Marcourt. The former is in the Hainaut PS, has a very left-wing program and experience as head of the Walloon government. His main problem is he doesn't get on with the "labour aristrocracy" that controls the PS. The latter is more of a "liberal socialist", an architect of Liège-style Belursconism but is good mates with the union leaders, the press and the private actors so he has this on his side. He will inevitably be linked to the Publifin scandal but he's always managed to present the Liège PS as the Calimero of the PS organism, so may get support from the PS branches who think the Hainaut PS is too dominant (they seem to always take the big portfolios).



In Gent, N-VA have demoted well known figure Siegfried Bracke, to the bottom of the list. He is a popular ex-TV journalist who is President of the Lower Chamber but he got caught with his hand in the sweet jar when it emerged he was being paid a 5 figure sum to sit on the board of Telenet while the House he presided was trying to regulate the telecoms industry (which is a partially state-run duopoly in Belgium, and most politicians have shares in them somehow). His demotion in Gent seems to be because N-VA have a bit of an identity crisis there. sp.a should hold on to this commune, with a popular mayor in Daniel Termont, but have suffered from small scandals and too close proximity with construction companies (to build their shiny new fishbowl they call a stadium for example). Instead, some are looking more towards VLD's shiny young product Matthias DeClerq. Both he and Termont are looking to secure CD&V suport for a mayoral bid.

 

Polls for Gent here : https://www.hln.be/nieuws/binnenland/peiling-gent-winst-voor-open-vld-socialisten-zien-af~a923c968/


In Mechelen (Malines in French), equally popular mayor Bart Somers (Open Vld) launched his stadslijst with Groen leader Kristoff Calvo. Somers was awarded prizes for his work in turning Mechelen into a grubby commuterzone to Antwerp with communitarian problems to a charming Flemish town. Journalists have noted how his cartel with groen is similarly themed to the Samen one in Antwerp : similar colours, emphasis on grassroots social movements, ecology, etc. He'll be up against an sp.a led by Caroline Gennez and the N-VA, but he should hold on easily with Calvo in support :  



Also, PP leader Mikael Modrikamen has been allegedly caught misusing European funds. He claims its a political hit-job by the establishment.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #63 on: December 23, 2017, 06:59:56 am »
« Edited: December 23, 2017, 07:01:46 am by coloniac »

Immigration and Asylum minister Theo Francken (N-VA) is under pressure to resign after he co-operated with the Sudanese secret service to deport Sudanese migrants trying to get to the UK. It turns out that some of these people ended up being tortured. Not only did his ministry not go through the correct procedures to ensure no torture would be used against the migrants, it was up to PM Charles Michel to assure the annoyed parliament that "no deportations to Sudan will happen until the end of January, so that we will have cleared up the facts of the case"

Francken took issue with this and on Flemish media he claimed he was made a scapegoat from the PM because "no deportations to Sudan were planned for January anyway", essentially calling Michel a liar when he is the one who fed this information to the PM. It turns out that there were deportations planned, and that he essentially both withheld information from the PM and lied to the Flemish media to cover his ass.

Francken probably feels untouchable though, and the N-VA know this, so they are defending him tooth and nail. He has apologised but MR do not seem to be as bothered as the two "rivals" of the N-VA, CD&V and Open VLD, who want Francken gone for withholding information. If you want to know why MR are/were not considered a serious alternative to PS in Wallonia, this episode illustrates exactly why : they often come across as lightweight (especially compared to "characters" in the PS) and only interested in their tax returns over any kind of values. Even when their PM is dumped into excrement they'd rather keep it quiet.

This was the kind of thing that would collapse a government 10 years ago but I doubt the parties can afford to do this for various reasons.

Merry Xmas.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #64 on: January 09, 2018, 06:32:09 am »
« Edited: January 21, 2018, 11:40:55 am by coloniac »

Michel dumped into further excrement by his coalition partner. De Wever, who said that if the majority wanted Theo Francken gone the N-VA would withdraw from said majority. CD&V are the most vocal government opponent with regards to Francken staying on, with Hermann Van Rompuy's brother calling Michel a "puppet" (a slur usually only used by Michel's francophone opponents). Their president Wouter Beke was quick to put the flames out, but the damage is done.

This explicit threat seems to point towards the N-VA wanting to collapse the government early. After all, if they focus the theme of the election on immigration it should be an easy win for them, and they would be able to combine this with the locals too. They already know that regionalist aspirations are dying (see : Catalonia) and the corruption scandals in Antwerp are handily shelved too.

For Michel it’s a massive blow as it confirms the theories his opposite numbers in Francophone Belgium have been saying from the start of the Swedish Coalition. And now he is in the media forced to defend the N-VA's program rather than his own. But the Flemish nationalists may have missed a trick here : MR are the only ally they have on the other side of the linguistic divide. Weakening them may "block" the state, but history shows that if you are Machiavellian enough to deliberately block Belgian institutions it can backfire (just ask Alex De Croo, or Joelle Milquet). N-VA though have a much bigger "siege mentality" and the personality cult around Theo Francken and De Wever is strong.

Meanwhile, let's remember that the origin of all this is human beings being delivered to torture tables...something that goes completely over the head of the same electorate that once had Vlaams Belang as their 2nd party I guess.

I'll be adding a profile of the electorates in 2014 to my previous party profiles, based on a "stemgedrag" I found in the KU Leuven and UC Louvain, followed by the state of parties going into 2018 election year and with what demographics they can realistically make progress electorally.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #65 on: January 17, 2018, 07:43:05 am »

The Samen cartel in Antwerp has split following a corruption case against sp.a's leading figure on the list, the same guy who was on texting terms with the construction company lobbyist who worked for De Wever. One happy family up there.

One of the more ridiculous decisions I have ever seen from Groen was the creation of that cartel. I make it a point that if the Greens in any country, let alone Belgium, want votes they should disassociate themselves from any so-called social-democratic party until after an election.

Still a long way to go but the nationalists and De Wever look safe in Antwerp for now. 
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Zinneke
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« Reply #66 on: January 20, 2018, 08:43:39 am »
« Edited: January 21, 2018, 11:49:07 am by coloniac »

The Samen cartel in Antwerp has split following a corruption case against sp.a's leading figure on the list, the same guy who was on texting terms with the construction company lobbyist who worked for De Wever. One happy family up there.

One of the more ridiculous decisions I have ever seen from Groen was the creation of that cartel. I make it a point that if the Greens in any country, let alone Belgium, want votes they should disassociate themselves from any so-called social-democratic party until after an election.

Still a long way to go but the nationalists and De Wever look safe in Antwerp for now.  
I regret to inform you that Paul Magnette has chosen to open his mouth on this topic.

http://www.lesoir.be/134719/article/2018-01-18/paul-magnette-les-wallons-sont-de-petits-arnaqueurs-en-comparaison-avec-la

The return to communitarian politics after being the so called defenders of Belgian integrity during the political crisis is really the most worrying thing about this behemoth of an excuse of a "social democratic, internationalist" party. But then what to expect from a party that had Happart, Van Cau, Moureaux and other regionalists. I did expect better of Magnette though.

Anyway, some funny developments in Mons/Bergen, an old provincial city in Hainaut nearby the NATO SHAPE headquarters, and deeply divided. Here, former PM Elio Di Rupo has had a fairly strong power base for 20 years now. Its at the heart of the coal mining Borinage region. But Mons itself has been slowly trending towards the right over local issues, including the new train station, seen as a vanity project. Di Rupo formed a coalition with MR, but found the latter's rising Reyndersien star there Georges-Louis Bouchez to be too disruptive and kicked MR out of the majority, taking cdH instead.

Fast forward to this week and now cdH's own rising student star in Mons, Opaline Meunier. announced that she would present herself on Georges-Louis Bouchez's list Mons en Mieux without changing party affiliation. This is despite a vote by the local cdH branch to forbid any association with the list until after the election. Lutgen, the party president, who is seen more and more as powerless due to how the Brussels cdH did not follow his lead, has kept just as quiet about this, despite calls to kick her out.

This fight is an interesting one because it will be generational as much as left-right. Mons is a changing city, its modernising itself, getting more students and it has quite a clear geographical split between the "new" city and the "old", with one.
What's more a loss for the PS here, seemingly unthinkable a few years ago, would spell the end of Di Rupo and his faction's chances in the nation-wide PS altogether. Their vote share also largely depends on how ECOLO do with left-wing students and more progressive left-wing voters.



In Liege-city, ECOLO, Demain, another citizen's movement and the Pirate Party have decided to present a single list called "Vert Ardent" (Liege is commonly known as "Cité Ardente"). Remains to be seen whether they can get a strong head of list to compete with PTB's Hedebouw.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #67 on: March 10, 2018, 06:03:29 am »

Bumpity-bump with some really insignificant polls given the margins of error. 

Wallonia :





PS back on the rise but here is the margin of error



Flanders






Brussels





 
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Zinneke
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« Reply #68 on: September 06, 2018, 06:16:11 pm »

There was a report on their militant actions some months ago, plus their violence in Ghent. And a very strange case particularly related to an ultra-Catholic school in the Brussels periphery. That this blows up now is surprising to me. This was always an open secret. And at the same time S&V are a laughing stock compared to the old 80s Flemish nationalist youth movements, that were bona fide Nazi cultists from very deprived backgrounds, very present in football hooliganism and shooting ranges. In contrast S&V are boy scouts with a bit of edge.

Still, people who are part of the old Volksunie guard knew S&V were a scandal waiting to happen within the N-VA. Given that S&V acted as Theo Franckens personal security at his events, my tinfoiled laden conspiracy is that the leading figures in the party, including perhaps De Wever, Saw that Franckens approval ratings transcended the party. They then wanted a bigger "dossier" to leak to the VRT, in order to get out what is undoubtedly one of the traditional Volksunie nationalists biggest pet peeve in their own movement: the revisionist far right. Francken's political capital is definitely harmed by this. I can't see the N-VA's electoral score changing as much though.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #69 on: September 08, 2018, 10:11:08 am »

Yeah, got to agree with Heat there. its not offensive at all, just boring debate at this point. Even a Flamingant rolls their eyes at that overused fantasy/joke.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #70 on: September 13, 2018, 05:55:35 am »

Stunning start to the local election campaigns across the board. In the fall out of the VRT documentary over their very own Sturmabteilung several N-VA candidates already taken off lists for racial slurs (one in Brussels-city for complaining about ''negro music'' outside his house) in order to clean the image of the party.

The best drama though is in Bastogne where Benoit Lutgen's absolute majority is under threat by...his brother, successful businessman Jean-Pierre Lutgen, who has managed to unite all the other major parties for a common list against the under pressure cdH president. Another great detail, Belgian local electoral law means they can't even sit in the same communal council should they both receive enough votes, meaning a winner takes all scenario. And now there are accusations of criminal records, and Défi having to review their strict policy of not supporting any candidate with one.

This could be the biggest political casualty of the election.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #71 on: September 18, 2018, 08:49:44 am »

Welcome to the forum, Lakigigar! Thank you for the posts.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #72 on: September 22, 2018, 06:16:05 am »
« Edited: September 22, 2018, 06:21:56 am by coloniac »

Welcome, Lakigigar, and thank you for your contributions! Always eager to learn more about the neighbors' politics.

Can you (and/or Rogier) help me understand MR better? Are they generally to the right of Open VLD? Is it just generally middle-class people who vote for them? To what extent do Walloon and Flemish socialists, Christian Democrats and liberals coordinate their actions?

On this subject (although this dates from a few months ago, but still after my post on them)

http://www.lalibre.be/actu/politique-belge/willy-borsus-pas-de-place-en-belgique-pour-ceux-qui-combattent-nos-valeurs-5ad03df7cd709bfa6b55ee09

(Walloon Premier Willy Borsus, basically saying no place for people in Belgium for people who don't share our values)

https://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/detail_chastel-mon-liberalisme-n-a-pas-besoin-du-mot-social?id=9335382

(MR president Chastel dropping the social liberal line from the 2000s)

This is a pretty clear indication that the MR is slowly starting to swing to the right with the immigration debate in full force in Belgium (I talked about how they opened their lists to certain hard right figures, but this was rarely adopted at leadership level until now). But they cannot be described as right-wing compared to the the Flemish right-wing parties in media rhetoric, etc.

The DNA of that party, given that FDF is gone and MCC is a one man clown act, is a successor party of the PRL that defended the Liberal pillar, and all its associated civil society and economic actors for a good part of a century. Note that the Liberal pillar (like many liberal parties/actors in central/nordic Europe) was not based on a classical liberal ideology but a defence of bourgeois and independent classes and a commitment to secularisation of the state.

As a certain political scientist Paul Magnette wrote, there is a key difference in modus operandi between parties that are the patriciens parties (derived from the pillars) who use a quasi-clientelist arrangement with their different constituencies, largely based on syndicalised professional classes, and on the other hand you have tribunitiens parties like Défi/FDF and ECOLO that have no solid base outside where they have popular mayors but rely on a plural group of civil society actors to counter specific issues such as Flemish nationalism, corruption, ecology, etc. (and you also have testimonial parties like PTB-PVDA or Vlaams Belang/PP who try to influence the general federal debate by veering it one way or another). Power is essential to the patricien parties in order to protect the privileges of their class and civil society actors at the social dialogue level from the threat, more so than ideological consistency or even debates such as the levels of migration.

While MR are not as bad as the Christian pillar in litteraly defending the interests of their pillar above all ideology/principle, (as demonstrated by the Arco scandal), as a light patricien party they are still fundamentally reliant on their lifelong voters from civil society actors based on class/profession, and then only in a second measure on culturally right-wing voters interested in politics who might be tempted by anti-immigration or whatever. For them, thus, having some measure of power in the social dialogue to defend their class's priviledges is all they need, not an engagement in existential debates about European identity or immigration that could prove costly*.

Because of the nature of Flemish society, Flemish political and economic modernisation in the 1990s and the VB then N-VA rising, Open VLD had to compete on some areas there, as did all the other parties. Nevertheless, your affiliated healthcare mutual and union is still the key predictor of how you vote in Flanders (see KUL stemgedrag). Its just the nature of Flemish society has more "independents", or white collar workers not affiliated to trade unions, and thus less of a class/profession divide in political debate. Nevertheless, Wallonia is also slowly moving towards the political revolution Flanders saw at the turn of the millenium.  

Brussels politics and the Brussels MR, is sui generis, like most Brussels-related things.


*The PS are, of course, no better despite significant grandstanding. Magnette understands this having written about it, and he and is trying to turn them into something of a more modern party, but encounters resistance from the old guard.
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Zinneke
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« Reply #73 on: September 24, 2018, 12:37:26 pm »

To what extent do Walloon and Flemish socialists, Christian Democrats and liberals coordinate their actions?

On this particular point, there was a nice article on this (in french), based on a journal article that can be found in English

https://absp.be/Blog/2018/07/13/y-a-t-il-encore-des-partis-freres-en-belgique/

Short summary and translation, the first part details how, organisationally, they are now completely seperate parties (for the reason I explained on the first page of this thread). They used to share think tanks, etc but now everything is seperate. Informal organisational links are also gone : parties are not bound to go into coalition with their "brother" party anymore. They do however sit in the same European groupings, although that could change this year.

The second part talks about their denominations, but that is irrelevant (in my view). The name changes at the turn of the millenia were superficial ways of trying to renew or modernise the ideological bile that is needed to service the socio-economic interests of the pillar parties in the wake of the "White March", the rise of ecologists and VB - and in cdH's case it was a rather blatant attempt at building an islamo-democratic constituency.

The third part is the most interesting one, given its a survey of the legislators of the party families on who they colloborate more with : their own linguistic group or their brother party. They asked them who they worked with the most : other legislators from the "brother" party, other legislators from the same linguistic group, or neither. Both the Christian Democrats and the Socialists clearly work with elected members from their own linguistic group more that their "brother" party, so far are the differences in interests. VLD and MR tend to work more together.

The fourth part is the observation that despite these differences, both their electorates and their elected officials largely have the same sociological characteristics and ideological views respectively. You see that through percentage of catholics, level of education, and then positions on intervention of the state and the role of the federal government. So the authors conclude that they still somewhat exist as brothers (also because everybody still talks about them as such).
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Zinneke
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« Reply #74 on: September 29, 2018, 06:33:25 am »

What Lakigigar said + mobility being a seemingly genuine issue in the political debate in Antwerp, that probably cost N-VA more than their corruption scandal did. Greens seem to perform strongly on that issue for obvious reasons. If this election debate had federal undertones maybe PVDA would be doing better in Antwerp.

Antwerp and Leuven look like very interesting fights. Ghent on the other hand...does the Open VLD poster boy still have a shot? Also 7.4% for VB, in a local election in Ghent?
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