The Colour Purple
The Colour Purple
The End of Predictable Politics in the Low Countries
Belgium and the Netherlands are often taken and presented together as the ‘Low Countries’, and there are good reasons for treating the two countries as part of a single category, since both are textbook examples of divided societies, which display the subcultural vertical segmentation that has travelled conceptually as verzuiling (desegmentation or pillarization) and share the well‐known features of consociational democracy. Being neighbours, moreover, Belgium and the Netherlands share much common history, although the border separating the two countries is highly significant, and explains a number of important differences between them. In both countries, the major parties can be grouped into three party families: religious (Christian), liberal, and socialist, and in both there has been party change since the 1960s, in which the losers have been the Christian and Socialist parties, and the Liberals have gained support; however, specific patterns have been quite different. Most symptomatic of the passing of the old politics has been the formation of the so‐called ‘purple’ governments, which exclude Christian Democrats, but draw together the ‘red’ socialists and the ‘blue’ liberals. The introduction discusses these changes (including depillarization and the erosion of consociationalism), and the differences between the two countries; the next three sections cover the same topics as those in the other country case studies in the book, and examine party legitimacy (voter turnout, party membership, partisan identification, bridging the ‘gap’ between voters and office‐holders, and the Belgian legitimacy crisis), the strength of party organizations, and the systemic functionality of parties (in governance and recruitment, and linkage functions—participation, aggregation, and communication).
Keywords: Belgium, case studies, Christian parties, consociational democracy, desegmentation, erosion of consociationalism, governance, interest aggregation, liberal parties, Netherlands, partisan identification, party functionality, party legitimacy, party membership, party organization, party performance, pillarization, political communication, political participation, political parties, political recruitment, political system, purple governments, socialist parties, voter turnout
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