The voter has spoken, but what did he say again?

It was a long time ago that I heard something of Klimaatzaak (climate case). To refresh your memory, at the end of last year a group of eleven Flemish celebrities threatened to start a law suit against the Belgian state because of what they consider a failed climate policy. Last week they came in the picture in the Flemish current affairs program “Terzake”. They appeared several times in the reportage, the first appearance was in: The voter has spoken now he has to shut up, that is squarely against what people want.

That reportage was about an eco-fair called “Ecopolis” where alternative ideas where proposed and in in extension of that some citizens’ initiatives were presented, one of which was Klimaatzaak. The central question posed in this reportage was whether such actions by “civilians” are an enrichment of our parliamentarian democracy or show the weakness of it.

The reporters asked that question to Prof. Em. Luc Huyse, a sociologist at the University of Leuven. He explained that many people’s belief in elections has been diminished, they want to do something and start to organize themselves. The difference between those new organizations and previous gatherings are that they are professionally organized, their use of social media, work around contemporary themes, have no direct link with politics and find the money to pay for their operational costs themselves.

Looking at these points I still agree that Klimaatzaak can be categorized as that. But the theme of the interview was that voters had enough of failing politics and want to take action themselves. He closed with this statement:

Now they [the politicians] say: het primacy of politics has to dominate. This means: the voter has spoken, we have the mandate and now the voter has to shut up. That is squarely against what people want.

I don’t know how much that is applicable to the other groups he was talking about, but I am sure this is not applicable to Klimaatzaak, at all.

I remember very well the atmosphere before the elections of May 25, 2014. There were many who lamented that there was no climate theme in the election campaigns. Indeed, none of the parties had a clear environmental or climate theme in their campaign, even not the Green party. Their campaign actually clearly lacked an environmental theme and favored the hot socio-economic issues like pensions, unemployment, health care,… because those were high on the list of worries of the voter.

I also remember vividly “De foto van Vlaanderen” (“The photo of Flanders”), a poll taken before the elections in which about 3,000 Flemish people were asked about what they thought were important issues. In that list of worries, climate change was among the issues at the very bottom of the list… The voters were not very interested in climate change, so I am not really sure whether this is an action that is actually supported by the voters, as it seems to be suggested in this interview.

The voter has spoken, sure, but as far as I know that was not exactly what he said.

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