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The Future of Consociationalism in Belgium

Sigrid De Wilde
Ghent University
Sigrid De Wilde
Ghent University
Open Panel

Abstract

“Belgium can legitimately claim to be the most thorough example of consociational democracy, the type of democracy that is most suitable for deeply divided societies.” (Lijphart, A., 1981) For a good understanding in this paper we use the definition of Lijphart (1969) when he poses: “Consociationalism means government by elite cartel designed to turn a democracy with a fragmented political culture into a stable democracy. This citation is the starting point of my research. Belgium is a deeply divided society, with 3 communities and 3 regions, 3 languages, completely separated parties and 3 cross cutting cleavages. In the past Belgium survived important conflicts by using these special technique of decision-making, for example the Royal Question (1950), School Pact (1958), Social Pact (1944), Egmontpact (1977) and 5 major State Reforms. We should conclude that consociationalism in Belgium seems to work. Today, more than before, we can ask ourselves the question if the citation above still is applied or ever was applied. More and more situations bury this theses. Nowadays the sense for consociationalism is almost absent by the political society. Since 2007 there was no stable federal government in Belgium. The latest elections of 2010 are the conflicts climax so far, as the points of view between North and South and the elections results has never been more opposite. This paper discuss the theoretical framework and research design of my future research on consociationalism in Belgium. More precisely the evolution of the consociationalism in Belgium over time; past, present and future. Did the Belgian political elite changed her attitude of decision-making ? Did she become less consociational ? Did our society changed and disappear the necessary conditions for consociationalism? Or has become the electorate more radical in her opinion and vote ?