Populist Party Leaders in Belgium: an Analysis of VB AND PVDA-PTB


This article scrutinizes the position and the role of the party leader in two populist parties in Belgium: Vlaams Belang (VB) and Partij van de Arbeid — Parti du Travail de Belgique (PVDA-PTB). Following Mudde’s definition, populism is understood as a people-centered and anti-elitist ideology. The article argues that, if one accepts the notion that parties will organize themselves in line with their ideological beliefs, then one should expect populist parties to exhibit three main characteristics: leaders are directly elected by the party members, they have extensive powers with only minimal intra-party institutional checks, and they feature strongly in electoral campaigns. Applying this argument to the two Belgian populist parties, the article finds only limited evidence for the argument that populist parties mirror their ideology in the role and position of their party leader.

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