Flip Franssen

To which extent are politicians cheating on voters? "Secret pre-deals in 70% of the cases"

Local elections are taking place in Belgium on 14 October. Political pundit Johan Ackaert of Hasselt university (UHasselt) claims that political parties in as many as 7 in 10 municipalities already clinched a secret deal for a coalition, without the electorate being informed. 

Johan Ackaert presented his findings in De Morgen and confirmed his hypothesis in the VRT's morning radio programme "De Ochtend". For the purpose, he questioned different political leaders after the previous local elections, adding "I think 70 percent could be an underestimation, as many politicians are reluctant to admit it." 

A preliminary deal can take on different forms. It can be about which parties will cooperate to form the ruling coalition - if these have a majority, of course - or about who will become the new Mayor, and who will become an Alderman. It can be a gentleman's agreement by handshake, but it's also possible that a notary public makes the deal more official. 

A pre-deal is not a guarantee for success: 40 percent of those clinching a deal, end up empty-handed

However, a pre-deal is not a guarantee, says Ackaert: "It's not a life insurance. 40 percent of the local political leaders who were involved in a deal, admit that they eventually ended up empty-handed, ending up on the opposition benches."

This is mostly because the voters decided otherwise. So while the voter may not be informed about these secret deals, they have more power than they would think.  This being said, politicians should have the courage to admit their deals and inform the public, Ackaert says. This would make the world of politics more transparent, he argues.