Belgian political parties are increasingly using parliamentary assistants to carry out their own operations, despite their salaries being paid for by the Belgian State. As a result, researchers are calling on these salaries, totalling around 800 million euros, to be included in parties’ public funding.
KU Leuven academics Bart Maddens, Gunther Vanden Eynde and Jef Smulders looked into different parliaments in Belgium to find out how many staff members each political party could count on. The findings of the study were published in the Flemish magazine Knack.
The logic seems fairly simple, each MP is entitled to their own personal assistant(two in the Walloon parliament) and a party’s parliamentary group is also entitled to employ their own staffers.
The logic seems fairly simple, each MP is entitled to their own personal assistant (two in the Walloon parliament) and a party’s parliamentary group is also entitled to employ their own staffers.
The academics concluded that the role of parliamentary assistants, as well as political party funding in general, should be regulated and adjusted, as their figures have revealed that, if assistants’ wages were included, the amount parties receive from the State each year would be doubled.
Back in the days where they were known as Vlaams Blok, the far-right Flemish nationalists Vlaams Belang (VB) would use staff on the parliamentary payroll to work for their own operations and activities, with the research showing that Belgium’s traditional parties have caught onto the trick.
However, instead of bucking the trend, Belgian political parties have decided to do the same bit of creative accounting by using these assistants to save on labour costs.
This is apparently due to their electoral decline over recent years, which has led to them receiving less public funding, as revenue is distributed among the number of seats won.
As a result, this confirms stories Knack had heard with regards to parliamentary assistants completing personal tasks for politicians, such as cleaning their boss’ driveway, arranging their divorce papers or even picking up their children.