Plurality of Offices: a Belgian Big Deal

If you have been living in Belgium for a bit less than one year and you have been following Belgian or Walloon politics, you’ll have probably heard about the Publifin and Samusocial scandals. What is the main reason of all that mess? What was the starting point of the political scandal that led to Mr. Mayeur’s resignation as mayor of Brussels? The answer is quite simple: plurality of offices.

What does that actually mean? Plurality of offices is a way, for politicians, to be involved or elected in several public organisations or entities. Of course, it happens in many countries all over the World, but Belgium probably hits the top of some ranks with this regard. If you remember well, Philippe Close was indeed suspected to have 29 mandates in 2015, which could be a nonsense in other countries.

That subject went back at the top of the agenda a couple of days ago, as Cumuleo revealed that 6 ministers (out of 7!) in the new Walloon government had omitted to make some of the mandates they hold public. The only minister who is not suspected of lying in the number of mandates he currently has is Carlo di Antonio (cdH). The new minister-President, Willy Borsus (MR) has not mentioned three mandates (unless two of them are over since 2013 and 2015).

If the Belgian media are used to make that information public, Cumuleo has been very famous and active for a couple of years. The website, launched in 2009, aims to benchmark all the mandates the Belgian politicians hold. It has been using a special database for one year, which is actually easy to use. Cumuleo uses the data published by the Belgian Court of auditors to make a synthesis on all the political mandates. The documents and data Cumuleo uses are analysed and gathered to make the information as understandable as possible. If holding several offices is not an infringement of the Federal law, the political leaders and high-ranking officials are required to declare which offices they do hold.

Although this sort of website could seem obvious and fundamental in a digital democracy today, Cumuleo is unique and innovative platform in Belgium. It analyzes more than 654,500 mandates, which are currently held by 15,456 political leaders and high-ranking officials. Plurality of offices is then a major matter in Belgian politics and that’s why Cumuleo has a key role in the political landscape.

Several Walloon ministers have quickly reacted to the publication of this information about plurality of offices, such as M. de Borsus, in order to make their political mandates clear to everyone. René Collin (cdH), the Walloon minister of agriculture, also pretended he did not take part in some mandates he used to hold before. Those quick reactions show that plurality of offices is still a major concern and the politicians will be under pressure over the coming years to ensure transparency.