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The quality of this representation can be measured for each element by means of the square cosines of the angles between both axes and the vector defined by the position of the element in the multidimensional space describing all the deviations. When the sum of both squared cosines is one, it means that the vector lies perfectly on the visualised surface, and thus is entirely represented.

Belgium (02/08/11)

When the sum is zero, the vector lies perpendicular to the visualised surface, and nothing can be said about the distance and direction of the element concerned. It turns out that the first three axes already describe The former has clearly its own electoral geography, related to the strongholds of some party leaders. The latter has a weaker idiosyncratic pattern. A close examination of the data reveals a strong positive deviation in the canton of Leuven, explained by the weight of the university on the socio-economic structure of the population.

However, the Greens are equally well represented by the first two axes. The three traditional parties and the extreme right Vlaams Blok are well represented by the first three axes. Therefore, we examine the results in two planes: the plane spanned by the first and the second axes and the one spanned by the first and the third axes.

Table 1. Principal correspondence analysis of the Parliamentary elections the squared cosines of the parties for the different dimensions. Population density seems to be the most logical criterion, though the differences in size of the electoral cantons can disturb the picture. However, when an urban canton contains non-urban zones or vice versa , a part of the election results in this canton can be said to be non-urban.

Therefore, we can justify this approach. This results in 25 cantons being classified as urban 11 , which are identified by their names. Not every canton is equally well represented in each of the visualised subspaces, but the major part of them is well represented on the first three axes. The first dimension clearly separates urban and industrial cantons from non-urban cantons. The profile deviations of the urban cantons correspond with the electoral geography of the Vlaams Blok, and, although they are not very well represented on the graph, to a lesser extent Agalev and the small parties.

The right upper quadrant also contains a few rich, suburban cantons around Antwerp: Kapellen, Kontich, and Duffel. The non-urban cantons in this area are also less densely populated cantons in the Antwerp periphery. Thus, the upper part of the graph illustrates the Vlaams Blok strongholds, which are mainly urban and suburban, and the fact that the Greens are the only important party that confronts extreme right in the same cantons.

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In contrast, the Christian Democrats are over-represented in the non-urban areas, confirming the geopolitical positioning of the party. The urban cantons in the south of the province of West-Flanders form a remarkable exception: Kortrijk, Menen, Harelbeke, Izegem and Roeselare where endogenous economic development has taken place, protected from the influences of Belgian high finance and, subsequently, from foreign investment.

This development is borne along by Christian ownership, which sprouted from the small and medium-sized enterprises that have their roots in former flax cultivation. Figure 2. Principal correspondence analysis of the Parliamentary elections plot of parties and electoral cantons on the first and the second axis. The previously mentioned traditional urban socialist bastions are all in the upper left quadrant. The higher their score on the first dimension, the more they have been taken over by the Vlaams Blok and Agalev. Indeed, the first axis separates the urban areas from the other, and not the second.

After all, quite some non-urban cantons are situated in the lower left quadrant of the figure. Only Ostend and Hasselt Limburg appear as socialist urban strongholds, and both are related to the presence of strong electoral candidates.


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The vertical axis is again the first dimension, contrasting the urban and non-urban cantons. Figure 3. Principal correspondence analysis of the Parliamentary elections plot of parties and electoral cantons on the first and the third axis. Thus, compared to the others, the Liberals are the closest to equipartition. Obviously, a large majority of the non-urban cantons, small cities and suburban cantons Destelbergen is the only suburban canton of Ghent classified as urban are those where the Liberals are over-represented. In fact, all the suburban cantons around Antwerp are located in it.

But on this level, as is the case with the Socialists in Hasselt and Ostend, we should also consider the role of candidates, more intensive campaigns and -connected with these factors- electoral discourses restricted to this area. The structure of the squared cosines is less clear in table 2.

In other words, the particularities of the electoral geography of each party cover several independent dimensions. Nevertheless, the first axis expresses the same geographical polarisation as in , even if the Christian Democrats also have their own dimension. The second part of the table shows how well the geographical electoral profile of the parties fit into the situation.

VU-ID, and to a lesser extent Agalev and the others, experienced a rather important shift, since their inertia is not very well described by the six dimensions of the results. However, more shifts are expressed by swaps between dimensions. Thus, both the Christian Democrats and the Liberals lost their distinctive dimension and are best represented by the first, most general dimension.

Moreover, the much lower cosine of the results of the Vlaams Blok on this dimension points to a less unique geographical profile. Table 2. Principal correspondence analysis of the Parliamentary elections the squared cosines of the parties for the different dimensions and position of the parties in the elections.


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The latter was chosen because it places the strong socialist-oriented cantons on the left of the figure and partially opposes them to the strong liberal-oriented cantons. This has the advantage of comparability with figure 2, where the socialist-oriented cantons were also positioned on the left side of the figure. Moreover, Agalev, VU and the others are ignored because their deviations are not well reflected in this plane. Figure 4. Principal correspondence analysis of the Parliamentary elections plot of parties and electoral cantons on the first and the fourth axis and position of the parties in the elections.

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Most non-urban cantons are still in the lower half of the graph, but only Antwerp, its suburbs and Mechelen are on the positive side. This position is obviously related with a strong overrepresentation of extreme right votes. The Socialists appear as a much more urban party than in Although the positions are not perfectly represented, three types of changes are observed. Clearly, the CVP and the SP move away from the centre, indicating they diverge more than in from an equal strength in all cantons.

Can’t Go On

The Liberals are moving towards the former position of the Christian Democrats. In other words, they gradually take over the positions held by the CVP. The transfer to liberalism undoubtedly reflects the conscientious centrism of the large political families. They are all fishing for the votes of the same middle classes that became as a matter of fact the largest social group in society and therefore abandoning all defence of the ideology and social model which formed the basis for their movement, referring to the classical socio-political fault lines in our society Vanlaer, Understanding this, the political parties became pure representation parties.

They abandoned to a considerable extent their original ideology and all lean on the same neo-liberal project. The switch from one political family to another is therefore very difficult to interpret as a political U-turn. The progress of extreme-right has been larger in the periphery than in the urban areas since figure 5.

In addition, the absolute growth in percentage has been greater in the periphery than in the urban areas since De Maesschalck, Figure 5.

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The ratio between the percentage of votes for the Vlaams Blok in and Therefore, the Blok focuses on the working class areas of the large cities and the smaller industrial cities, where immigrants share the neighbourhoods with the Belgian working class, victim of deindustrialisation, the economic crisis and loss of social networks.

Clearly, they capture socialist votes in this area. An analysis of the electoral maps of the elections sheds more light on these shifts and reveals more complex relations between the parties and anti-urbanism. These areas correspond fairly well to the areas where the education hegemony of the Catholics was maintained through the 19th century figure 1.

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Nevertheless, these are economically speaking peripheral regions with low population densities. The only noteworthy exception to this marginalisation of the CVP is the area around Kortrijk already described in the correspondence analysis. No historical structures can be found which indicate any predestination for that area — forming a wide swathe from Ghent to South Limburg — to switch from catholicism to liberalism. This is, however, the zone with the highest population density, with the most intense development of Flemish prosperity.

This is expressed in the dominant residential form, housing estates that are neither rural nor urban and village places that have been transformed into financial centres where every large bank has a branch. Surprisingly enough, this way of life and this landscape are much more likely to have been created by the aforementioned Christian politics than by liberal progressive thinking. By contrast, the collapse of the Socialists is much more spectacular. Urban socialism has lost all its allure.

The red zone from Antwerp to Brussels has turned brown. Ghent fell into the hands of the Liberals and has also witnessed a worrying surge of the extreme right Vlaams Blok. Except where they have held on thanks to accidental personal success Ostend and Limburg , the socialist cantons are no longer the most industrialised nor the most urban with the exception of the small town of Wervik in south West-Flanders figure 7. On the contrary, in the geography of socialism in Flanders looks very much like that of the CVP: between them, they share the remainder of the periphery in West Flanders and Limburg.

Figure 7. The votes for the SP Socialists in Parliament elections. The Vlaams Blok regularly collects over 20 percent of the votes from Antwerp to Mechelen. University of California. Oxford Academic. Google Scholar.


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