[BOOK CHAPTER] Kelbel, C., Sandri, G., and van Haute, E. 2018. Who framed the party? The perception of political organisations. in Kris Deschouwer (ed.) Mind the Gap. Political Participation and Representation in Belgium, Rowman & Littlefield International, pp. 35-50.

Belgium is characterised by profusion and centrality of parties. The Belgian party system is split in two, it is highly fragmented and the effective number of parties has increased drastically through the years, largely due to the multiplication of cleavage politics (Delwit 2012). Parties are also central social and political actors, to the point that Belgium has been described as an ideal type of pillarisation and partitocracy (Deschouwer 2002; van Haute et al. 2013). They control various aspects of the political life, including the policymaking process. Party agreement and party discipline are high in parliament (Deschouwer and Depauw 2014; Close and Nunez 2017). Yet, as elsewhere, Belgian party organisations suffer from a lack of trust (Henry et al. 2015), the proportion of citizens who are party members has lowered (van Haute et al. 2013) and voter turnout is in decline despite compulsory voting. These are clear signs of a désamour between the public and parties. However, when analysing the public image of parties, the ‘public’ is usually taken as a homogenous entity. Yet the perception of parties’ role could vary on the basis of the socio-demographic profiles of citizens, as several studies have demonstrated (Marien 2011; Norris 2011; Webb 2013), but also be a function of political attitudes and behaviours, and more specifically on the basis of individual relationship with (and thus proximity to) parties. This chapter therefore aims at better understanding the perception and image of parties in Belgium. The question that this chapter addresses is: Is there too much party and if so, who thinks so? Using data from the 2014 PartiRep Voter Survey and the 2014 Belgian Candidate Survey, this chapter investigates the gaps in the perception of the weight of parties in the policymaking process across various groups. More specifically, we investigate the determinants of these opinions at three levels: the macro-level (between Flanders and Wallonia), the meso-level (across parties) and the individual level (proximity to parties and views on democracy). Looking more in-depth into this question brings us insights as to who thinks there is too much party and where the lines of division lie. It ultimately contributes to a better understanding of the functioning of representative democracy in Belgium and more generally to the debate on the crisis of party democracy (Dalton and Weldon 2005).

Link:  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Emilie_Van_Haute/publication/322909933_Chapter_2_Who_framed_the_party_The_perception_of_political_organisations/links/5a7571dfaca2722e4ded384b/Chapter-2-Who-framed-the-party-The-perception-of-political-organisations.pdf