International Journal of Forecasting vol:28 issue:4 pages:777-788
Election forecasting models assume retrospective economic voting and clear mechanisms of accountability. Previous research indeed indicates that incumbent political parties are being held accountable for the state of the economy. In this article we develop a ‘hard case’ for the assumptions of election forecasting models. Belgium is a multiparty system with perennial coalition governments. Furthermore, Belgium has two completely segregated party systems (Dutch and French language). Since the prime minister during the period 1974-2011 has always been a Dutch language politician, French language voters could not even vote for the prime minister, so this cognitive shortcut to establish political accountability is not available. Results of an analysis for the French speaking parties (1981-2010) show that even in these conditions of opaque accountability, retrospective economic voting occurs as election results respond to indicators with regard to GDP and unemployment levels. Party membership figures can be used to model the popularity function in election forecasting.