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>CEE: the Benelux of the post-communist world (but less exciting)?


I like the end of year radio programmes where journalists stop trying to tell us what has just happened and have a go at forecasting what will happen. Unloading the dishwasher morning and evening, I caught both Correspondents’ Look Ahead and the last Start the Week of 2007. Both provide a brutally clear summary of the places that really matter in world politics: the US, China, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran India, Africa, Russia, roughly in that order. Central and Eastern Europe doesn’t get a mention beyond one comment on Serbia and Kosovo/a. Peace, growth, EU membership have made CEE and its politics about as exciting as and important as Scandinavia or perhaps Belgium, given the a constant trickle of medium-low level political corruption, although Belgian politics is actually rather more exciting than anything to be found in Slovenia or the Czech Republic these days.

As if to make the point, Czech political scientist Miroslav Mareš struggles to tell readers of economics daily Hospodářské noviny what exciting new themes Czech politics has served up to political scientists in 2007: some unresolved questions about party system consolidation (Will the Social Democrats team up more closely with the Communist? Will the current coalition lay the basis of a more solid right-wing bloc? Does anyone know how public policy is actually made in the Czech Republic? And some small scale, radical social movements protesting against proposed US radar bases). Somehow you sense him yawning over his keyboard.

>A decent European election archive – Olé!

>And, of all, places I find an excellent detailed Euro-election archive on, of all places, the website of the regional government of Valencia in Spain. For the record WOW polled 127, 504 votes (2.14%) of the national (federal) Belgian poll, fairly narrowly missing out on an MEP.

>What’s making me go grey… ? Belgian Euro-election results, naturally


Yesterday, I spent a frustrating couple of hours online trying to track down details of the Belgian pensioners party of the early 1990s Waardig Ouder Worden (Growing Old With Dignity). Although a typical peripheral minor party WOW did apparently inially poll well enough to win one MEP in 1994 and had one deputy on Antwerp council, where it it was founded, and seems to have been divided over its relationship with Vlaams Blok in the city. I had assumed that WOW was connected with the break-up of the mainstream Flemish nationalist Volksunie movement, but in fact – perhaps more in keeping with the fringe nature of grey parties – it was a split from the Rossem protest/get-rich-quick party founded in 1991 by the picaresque Flemish businessman and writer, Jean-Pierre van Rossen. Rossem, it seems, stood for Radicale Omvormers and Sociale Strijders voor een Eerlijker Maatschappij which apparently translates as ‘Radical Reformists and Social Fighters for a Fairer society’.
As van Rossen – who like many fringe populist politicians once worked as a university lecturer – was associated with the dubious Moneytron investment system, the Rossem part seems to have been intended as a vehicle for him to gain parliamentary immunity and avoid prosecution. The party contested the November elections for the Belgian national (federal) parliament and gained a surprising 3.2% of the vote winning three seats in the lower house and one in the senate. Despite being arrested for fraud a few days before the elections, Rossem was eventually sworn in on 7 January 1992 but his antics shouting – for example shouting ‘Vive la république’ as King Albert II was being sworn in as monarch – contributed to the party collapsing in predictable infighting. WOW seems to have been one of the earliest and biggest splits from the party.
So far so interesting, but what really drove me made was the impossibility of finding on-line Belgian European election results for 1994. The Belgian Interior Ministry and parliaments website only have the two most recent results. Wikipedia (boo hiss) to which more serious sites like ElectionWorld have sadly migrated does not have them, nor do they seem to have been written up in Electoral Studies.