1st Edition

Belgian Exceptionalism Belgian Politics between Realism and Surrealism

Edited By Didier Caluwaerts, Min Reuchamps Copyright 2022
    236 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    236 Pages 25 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This book takes stock of Belgium’s exceptional and – for some foreign observers –schizophrenic position in the political world and explains its idiosyncrasy to a non-Belgian audience.

    Offering a broad and comprehensive analysis of Belgian politics, the guiding questions throughout each of the chapters of this book are: Is Belgium a political enigma, and why? Along which axes is Belgium "exceptional" compared to other countries? And what insights does a comparative study of Belgian politics have to offer? The book therefore provides a critical assessment of how Belgian politics "stands out" internationally, both in good and bad ways – including consociationalism, federalism, democratic innovations, Euroscepticism, government formation, gender equality, among others – and which factors can explain Belgium’s exceptional position.

    Based on cutting-edge research findings, the book will be of wide interest to scholars and students of Belgian politics, European Politics and Comparative politics.


    The Open Access version of this book, available at www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

    Introduction: Belgium – why bother?

    Didier Caluwaerts and Min Reuchamps

    Part 1: Belgium on the Barricades

    1. Compulsory voting: Anachronism or avant-garde?

    Didier Caluwaerts, Sophie Devillers, Nino Junius, Joke Matthieu and Sarah Pauwels

    2. The long-term effects of gender quotas in Belgium: Leading by example?

    Robin Devroe, Silvia Erzeel, Petra Meier and Bram Wauters

    3. An analysis of electronic voting in Belgium: Do voters behave differently when facing a machine?

    Régis Dandoy

    4. Thriving in an unfriendly territory: The peculiar rise of minipublics in consociational Belgium

    Julien Vrydagh, Sophie Devillers, Vincent Jacquet, David Talukder, and Jehan Bottin

    Part 2: Belgium, a democracy in trouble

    5. Challenging the cordon sanitaire in Belgium: A diachronic analysis

    Benjamin Biard

    6. Breaking free from partitocracy: Do Belgian candidates stand out?

    Audrey Vandeleene, Chloé Janssen and Maximilien Cogels

    7. Coalition formation in Belgium: From exceptional complexity to regime breakdown?

    Lieven De Winter and Patrick Dumont

    8. Caretaker governments in Belgium: The new normal?

    Régis Dandoy and Lorenzo Terrière

    9. The changing dynamics of Belgian federalism: Is there a reversal of the paradox of federalism?

    Laura Pascolo, Daan Vermassen, Min Reuchamps and Didier Caluwaerts

    10. Voting for ‘the other side’? The curious case of the Brussels Capital Region

    Benjamin Blanckaert, Didier Caluwaerts and Silvia Erzeel

    Part 3: Belgium and the world

    11. Federalization of the Belgian national past: Do collaboration and colonization still matter?

    Valerie Rosoux

    12. The Europeanisation of Belgian parties: Both near and far?

    Louise Hoon and Gilles Pittoors

    13. Belgium in the UN Security Council: Still an active player?

    Michel Liégeois and Murat Caliskan


    Didier Caluwaerts is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

    Min Reuchamps is Professor of Political Science at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain), Belgium.

    "The Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte wrote, "This is not a pipe", under his famous painting of a pipe. One might also write, "This is not a country", under a picture of Belgium, playing like Magritte, little games with the eyes of the beholder. The picture of Belgium that is drawn in this book is, however, not an exercise in irony, but a first-rate analysis of the country and its sometimes puzzling and intriguing political institutions and practices. Belgium does combine a number of features that makes it at first sight quite unique and maybe impossible, but the solid political science presented by the contributions in this book explains convincingly why and how this is a real country indeed."

    Kris Deschouwer, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.