The Communist Party of Belgium and the municipal elections of 24 November 1946: a deceptive breakthrough

On November 24, 1946, the first municipal elections in Belgium since the end of the Second World War were held. The Communist Party of Belgium (PCB-KPB), which had relatively little presence in the municipalities until then, achieved what would be its best electoral and political performance at this level. Based on the data collected, it appears that the PCB-KPB had candidates on the ballots of 865 communal elections and won 811 seats in total. Notably, it won twenty mayoral positions and 134 of its candidates were elected as aldermen in 123 communal majorities. Nevertheless, as this article demonstrates, these results caused the leaders of the PCB-KPB great distress. The communal elections confirmed an observation made in the wake of the parliamentary elections of February that same year: the PCB-KPB could not manage to approach the new political status. The dominant factor behind the electoral results in 1946 was political continuity with the pre-war period. This irony of a ‘victory’ understood as a defeat brings us back to two key interpretations of electoral results. The first refers to the idea that electoral performance is first and foremost examined through the prism of social expectations and the objectives of the various actors. The second is that the interpretation of election is often based on the commentary surrounding it as opposed to the actual results. For the PCB-KPB, the momentum was over and a new organisational shakeup was unable to build on the party’s successes in 1946.