Verkiezingen en kiesstelsels

  • Rolf Falter


Nineteenth-century literature on electoral systems and elections in Belgium was generally made of political pamphlets. Politicians were the most interested in the subject, which seems quite logical for the elections, but
is also true for the electoral legislation, because this bas almost continuously been a topic in the political fights in Belgium between 1830 and 1914. Therefore, a lot of research-work on electoral legislation and data was done in the discreet study-roms of local party-offices, as can be learned from the archives of nineteenth-century politicians.
The valuable information resulting from this research was usually kept secret for the outside world, for which the politicians reserved their more propagandistic tracts.  Nevertheless, out of the bulk of pamphlets on electoral systems and elections, a few books deserve some special attention. Like those aiming to gather the existing electoral data needed for further research : large compilations of vast amounts of jurisprudence on the rather loose electoral laws, or first and timid attempts to make electoral statistics available for the larger public. Analysing just held elections seems on the other hand to have been a sart of monopoly of the politicians themselves. Even if they tried in the first place to fit in the verdict of the electors into their propagandistic schemes, it should be stressed that they also gave timid evidence of trying to respect at least the statistical facts (cf. abstract 1, which is an analysis by the catholic leader Charles Woeste of the part the introduction of the secret ballot in 1877 played in the defeat of bis party one year later).
It was only when, from 1890 to 1893, the Belgian constitution was revised, that the subject of electoral systems and elections became also a matter of interest for academic circles. University-professors then began to publish voluminous blue-prints for a new constitution, thereby usually replacing their scientific detachment by politica! engagement. An exception to this is the remarkably serene «mathematical tract» of Victor D'hondt, a law-professor at Ghent University, who in 1882 gave his name to what was to become the most applicated system of proportional representation in the world (cf. abstract 3).
After 1900 the first more or less scientific works on the subject, based on critical research, were published: one written by the law-professor of Louvain, Leon Dupriez ( who, in abstract 4, fries to explain why in Liège the workers generally had fewer votes in the plural system than their colleagues of Hainaut), the other one by his French colleague of Montpellier, Joseph Barthélemy, who wrote a voluminous history of the Belgian electoral systems since 1830 (and, in abstract 5, examines the application of proportional representation in the politically motivated nominations at the Belgian courts). Bath in the first place seem to have wanted to improve the knowledge on the subject. Their research and analysis for the first time was not subordinated to their personal political engagement.

How to Cite:

Falter, R., (1985) “Verkiezingen en kiesstelsels”, Res Publica 27(4), 485-507. doi:

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Published on
30 Dec 1985
Peer Reviewed