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

Abstract

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.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Akkerman, A., Mudde, C., & Zaslove, A. (2013). How Populist Are the People? Measuring Populist Attitudes in Voters. Comparative Political Studies, 47(9), 1324–1353. doi:10.1177/0010414013512600

  • Balmas, M., Rahat, G., Sheafer, T., & Shenhav, S. R. (2014). Two routes to personalized politics: Centralized and decentralized personalization. Party Politics, 20(1), 37–51. doi:10.1177/1354068811436037

  • Barr, C., Clarke, S., & Lewis, P. (2018, 12/12/2018). Measuring Populism: How The Guardian Charted Its Rise. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/20/measuring-populism-how-guardian-charted-rise-methodology

  • Canovan, M. (1999). Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy. Political Studies, 47(1), 2–16.

  • Carter, E. (2018). Right-Wing Extremism/Radicalism: Reconstructing the Concept. Journal of Political Ideologies, 23(2), 157–182. doi:10.1080/13569317.2018.1451227

  • Chiru, M., Gauja, A., Gherghina, S., & Rodriguez-Teruel, J. (2015). Explaining change in party leadership selection rules. In W. Cross & J.-B. Pilet (Eds.), The politics of party leadership: A cross national perspective (pp. 31–49). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Close, C. (2018). Parliamentary party loyalty and party family: The missing link? Party Politics, 24(2), 209–219. doi:10.1177/1354068816655562

  • de Lange, S. L., & Art, D. (2011). Fortuyn versus Wilders: An Agency-Based Approach to Radical Right Party Building. West European Politics, 34(6), 1129–1149.

  • de Lange, S. L., & Mügge, L. M. (2015). Gender and right-wing populism in the Low Countries: ideological variations across parties and time. Patterns of Prejudice, 49(1–2), 61–80. doi:10.1080/0031322X.2015.1014199

  • de Vet, B. P. S., & Wauters, B. P. S. (2018). Follow the leader: testing a deductive approach for studying parliamentary party leadership roles. In: 2018.

  • de Vreese, C., Esser, F., Aalberg, T., Reinemann, C., & Stanyer, J. (2018). Populism as an Expression of Political Communication Content and Style: A New Perspective. International Journal of Press/Politics, 23(4), 423–438.

  • De Winter, L., & Dumont, P. (2000). PPGs in Belgium: subjects of partitocratic dominion. In K. Heidar & R. Koole (Eds.), Parliamentary party groups in European democracies. Political parties behind closed doors. (pp. 106–129). London: Routlegde.

  • Delwit, P. (2014), PTB: nouvelle gauche, vieille recette. Brussel: Pire.

  • Deschouwer, K. (2009). The politics of Belgium: governing a divided society. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Dewachter, W. (2005). Inleiding. Het partijbureau in het kluwen van de particratie. In Een half eeuw partijbureau in België (pp. 6–30). Leuven: Acco.

  • Dewachter, W. (2014). De trukendoos van de Belgische particratie: een Europese schande. Kalmthout: Pelckmans.

  • Dumont, P., Fiers, S., & Dandoy, R. (2008). Ups and downs of ministerial careers in a partitocratic federal state. In K. Dowding & P. Dumont (Eds.), The Selection of Ministers in Europe: Hiring and Firing (pp. 125–146). London: Routledge.

  • Enyedi, Z., & Linek, L. (2008). Searching for the right organization: ideology and party structure in East-Central Europe. Party Politics, 14 (4), 455–477.

  • Hazan, R. Y., & Rahat, G. (2010). Democracy within parties: candidate selection methods and their political consequences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Heinisch, R. (2003). Success in opposition. Failure in government. Explaining the performance of right-wing populist parties in public office. West European Politics, 26 (3), 91–113.

  • Heinisch, R., & Mazzoleni, O. (Eds.). (2016). Understanding Populist Party Organisation: The Radical Right in Western Europe. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Jagers, J. (2002). Eigen democratie eerst! Een comparatief onderzoek naar het intern democratisch gehalte van de Vlaamse politieke partijen. RES PUBLICA, 44 (1), 73–96.

  • Jagers, J., & Walgrave, S. (2007). Populism as Political Communication Style: An Empirical Study of Political Parties’ Discourse in Belgium. European Journal of Political Research, 46, 319–345. doi:10.1111/j.1475–6765.2006.00690.x

  • Jones, E. (2007). Populism in Europe. SAIS Review of International Affairs, 27 (1), 37–47. doi:10.1353/sais.2007.0010

  • Karvonen, L. (2010). The personalisation of politics: a study of parliamentary democracies. Colchester: Ecpr Press.

  • Marsh, M. (1998). Testing the Second-Order Election Model after Four European Elections. British Journal of Political Science, 28, 591–607.

  • McDonnell, D. (2015). Populist Leaders and Coterie Charisma. Political Studies, 64 (3), 719–733. doi:10.1111/1467–9248.12195

  • McDonnell, D. (2017). Populist Leadership. Social Alternatives, 36 (3), 26–30.

  • Moffitt, B., & Tormey, S. (2013). Rethinking Populism: Politics, Mediatisation and Political Style. Political Studies, 62 (2), 381–397. doi:10.1111/1467–9248.12032

  • Mudde, C. (2004). The Populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition, 39 (4), 541–563.

  • Mudde, C. (2007). Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Mudde, C. (2008). The Populist Radical Right: A Pathological Normalcy. Willy Brandt Series of Working Papers in International Migration and Ethnic Relations, 3 (07), 1–19.

  • Mudde, C. (2013). Three Decades of Populist Radical Right Parties in Western Europe: So What? European Journal of Political Research, 52 (1), 1–19. doi:10.1111/j.1475–6765.2012.02065.x

  • Mudde, C. (2014). Fighting the System? Populist Radical Right Parties and Party System Change. Party Politics, 20 (2), 217–226.

  • Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2019). Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit and Authoritarian Populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Pauwels, T. (2011a). Measuring Populism: A Quantitative Text Analysis of Party Literature in Belgium. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 21(1), 97–119. doi:10.1080/17457289.2011.539483

  • Pauwels, T. (2011b). Populisme in Vlaanderen. Samenleving en Politiek, 18(7), 4–15.

  • Pauwels, T. (2015). Populism in Western Europe: Comparing Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands. London: Routledge.

  • Pilet, J.-B., & Cross, W. (2018). Dataset Comparative Study of Party Leaders (COSPAL).

  • Pilet, J.-B., & Wauters, B. (2014). The selection of party leaders in Belgium. In J.-B. Pilet & W. Cross (Eds.), The Selection of Political Party Leaders in Contemporary Parliamentary Democracies. A Comparative Study (pp. 30–46). London: Routledge.

  • Poguntke, T., Scarrow, S., & Webb, P. (2016). Party Rules, Party Resources and the Politics of Parliamentary Democracies: How Parties Organize in the 21st Century. Party Politics, 22 (7), 1–18.

  • Rahat, G., & Hazan, R. Y. (2001). Candidate selection methods an analytical framework. Party Politics, 7 (3), 297–322.

  • Reif, K., & Schmitt, H. (1980). Nine Second-Order National Elections — A Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of European Election Results. European Journal of Political Research, 8 (1), 3–44.

  • Rooduijn, M., & Akkerman, T. (2015). Flank Attacks: Populism and Left-Rigth Radicalism in Western Europe. Party Politics, 23 (3), 193–204. doi:10.1177/1354068815596514

  • Rooduijn, M., de Lange, S. L., & van der Brug, W. (2012). A Populist Zeitgeist? Programmatic Contagion by Populist Parties in Western Europe. Party Politics, 20 (4), 563–575. doi:10.1177/1354068811436065

  • Rooduijn, M., & Pauwels, T. (2011). Measuring Populism: Comparing Two Methods of Content Analysis. West European Politics, 34 (6), 1272–1283. doi:10.1080/01402382.2011.616665

  • Taggart, P. (1998). A Touchstone of Dissent: Euroscepticism in Contemporary Western European Party Systems. European Journal of Political Research, 33, 363–388.

  • Taggart, P. (2000). Populism. Buckingham: Open University Press.

  • Van Haute, E., & Pauwels, T. (2016). The Vlaams Belang: Party Organization and Party Dynamics. In R. Heinisch & O. Mazzoleni (Eds.), Understanding Populist Party Organisation: The Radical Right in Western Europe (pp. 49–78). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Van Haute, E., Pauwels, T., & Sinardet, D. (2018). Sub-State Nationalism and Populism: The Cases of Vlaams Belang, Nex Flemish Alliance and DéFi in Belgium. Comparative European Politics, 16, 954–975. doi:10.1057/s41295–018–0144-z

  • Viviani, L. (2017). A Political Sociology of Populism and Leadership. Società Mutamento Politica, 8 (15), 279–303. doi:10.13128/SMP-20860

  • Wauters, B. (2014). Democratising party leadership selection in Belgium: motivations and decision-makers. Political Studies, 61 (1), 61–80.

  • Wauters, B., Thijssen, P., Van Aelst, P., & Pilet, J.-B. (2018). Centralized personalization at the expense of decentralized personalization. The decline of preferential voting in Belgium (2003–2014). Party Politics, 24 (5), 511–523. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068816678882

  • Wauters, B., & Weekers, K. (2008). Het gebruik van de voorkeurstem bij de federale parlementsverkiezingen van 10 juni 2007. RES PUBLICA, 50 (2), 49–88.

  • Webb, P. (2013). Who is willing to participate? Dissatisfied democrats, stealth democrats and populists in the United Kingdom. European Journal of Political Research, 52 (6), 747–772.

  • Weyland, K. (2001). Clarifying a Contested Concept: Populism in the Study of Latin American Politics. Comparative Politics, 34 (1), 1–22.

  • Wiles, P. (1969). A Syndrome, not a Doctrine: Some Elementary Eheses on Populism. In G. Ionescu & E. Gellner (Eds.), Populism: Its Meaning and National Characteristics. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

  • Zaslove, A. (2008). Here to Stay? Populism as a New Party Type. European Review, 16 (3), 319–336.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search