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Why do some parties have more campaign posters than others?

16:59 17/04/2019

While the results of an upcoming election in Brussels might be unsure, there is one reliable constant: Bickering over campaign posters.

While the capital region publishes guidelines for organising campaigns – and the rules around advertising are very strict – each municipality decides how to managing its own campaign poster panels. In terms of public space, posters can only be hung on the temporary wooden panels erected around town.

But municipalities have wholly different regulations when it comes to how much space on those panels a political party gets. Because the same political parties are running in multiple municipalities, it can lead to confusion and annoyance among candidates.

In Watermael-Boitfort, for instance, the French-speaking parties get twice as much space at the Dutch-speaking parties. Watermael Mayor Olivier Deleuze (Ecolo) finds this very logical. “We do it this way for every election,” he told Bruzz. “There are 16,000 French speakers living here and about 700 Dutch speakers.”

Chaotic

While that’s a simple system, in Etterbeek, one must be a whizz at maths to work it out. Every party represented in the city council gets two panels to themselves. Every party that has at least three representatives in the Brussels parliament gets half a panel. And the rest of the parties with candidates in the municipality share one-and-a-half panels, to a maximum of half a panel per party.

In Schaerbeek, meanwhile, parties with city councillors with a jurisdiction, such as health or public works, automatically get one whole panel. The other parties “share the rest among themselves,” said a mayoral spokesperson.

During last year’s local election campaign period, there were public complaints of unfairness, particularly from the right-wing Dutch-speaking parties, who found the lack of a cohesive policy confusing, going as far as to call some municipalities’ practices discriminatory.

And they might not be all wrong, according to a former clerk at the Flemish Community Commission in Brussels. Campaign posters in the capital “are not regulated by law,” Daniel Buyle told Bruzz. “the municipalities are free to decide how they divide the panels, which is contrary to the spirit of the regulations. Really, all lists that participate should have equal space.”

Photo: Nicolas Lambert/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw