Flemish Liberals have highest number party supporters

With 63,239 members, the Flemish Liberal party (Open VLD) has the highest number of party supporters in all of Flanders. Open VLD now has more members than the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V). CD&V have traditionally been the largest party for more than four decades, but the member count has fallen to 56,746. The Flemish Socialist Party (SP.A) comes third, followed by the Flemish Nationalists (NV-A). The latter however, has the highest number of voters.

The three ‘traditional’ Flemish political parties – Open VLD, CD&V and SP.A – have lost a fair number of party members in the last couple of years according to a report drawn up by the Centre of Political Sciences of Leuven University. Open VLD was able to stabilise their losses, meaning they have now become the biggest political party in Flanders when looking at membership.

“The time when large ‘people’s parties’ reigned, is up”

“CD&V has been losing members continuously”, clarifies political scientist Mark Hooghe to the VRT. “But this trend accelerated recently.” CD&V loses around 7 to 10 percent members each year, which means the total amount has halved in comparison to 20 years ago. “CD&V has a lot of old members and these are disappearing gradually. The recent problems with the Christian Trade Union (ACV) have also contributed to the losses.”

SP.A, another party with a historically high membership, is also losing members in droves. “The time when large ‘people’s parties’ reigned, is up”, states professor Hooghe. “The same trend is noticeable abroad.”

Members are important to a political party, according to Mr Hooghe. “They are sure voters. If you strive for electoral success, they account for a large number of the votes.”

“There will always be a correlation between the number of members and the number of votes”

N-VA, a party which has known great electoral success recently, has been gaining a lot of member in the last couple of years and has grown to become the fourth largest party in Flanders (41,176 members). “This kind of growth is impressive, but is still smaller than we would have expected”, according to Mr Hooghe. “While you can book great successes without members, in the long term there will always be a correlation between the number of members and the number of votes.”