West European Politics vol:34 issue:3 pages:626-643
During the past two decades, various attempts have been made to implement changes in the Belgian electoral system. While most of these attempts met with failure, some minor changes were successful. In this article, we consider three cases in depth: demands for the abolishment of compulsory voting, the ongoing discussion about splitting the Brussels electoral district according to linguistic lines, and the introduction of an electoral threshold. We demonstrate that legal barriers and veto players are instrumental in explaining the odds that attempts at electoral reform will be successful. Belgium’s consociational system does indeed impose the use of super majorities for some reforms and the in-built obligation of power sharing grants veto power to major but also to smaller political parties in every language group. The case studies also demonstrate that political parties often fail to estimate in a reliable manner the consequences of reform.