The Flemish nationalist party N-VA is the biggest spender in the EU on political ads on the social media platform Facebook, according to research carried out by AdLens.
In addition, party president Bart De Wever is the biggest spending individual on political ads, having spent €255,411 on Facebook and Instagram between January and July this year.
AdLens is a group of journalists, researchers and data analysts whose aim is to bring more transparency to political advertising on Facebook, in particular in relation to Belgian politicians. However their latest report covers 33 countries in Europe, where N-VA leads the field.
In the seven months studied, N-VA spent €140,916 on Facebook ads (and on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook). In second place comes the Dutch socialist party PVDA, far behind on €35,716. In third place, right-wing Flemish party Vlaams Belang, spending €27,790.
At the bottom of the list, spending only €564, is DéFI, the party that aims to defend the rights of French-speakers in Brussels.
When it comes to the spend of individual politicians, more European names show up.
Behind De Wever comes Wopke Hoekstra (NL – CDA) on €151,819, followed by Peter Mertens (B – PVDA) on €97,565 and Tom Van Grieken (B – Vlaams Belang) on €81,479.
The only other non-Belgians on the top ten list are Kyriakos Mitsotakis (GR – Nea Dimokratia): €68,788 and Jesse Klaver (NL – GroenLinks): €61,045.
It would appear to be fruitless to try to extract any political point from the rankings, given the presence of nationalists, greens, Christian democrats and socialists side by side.
The amount a party spends on Facebook ads is a psephological choice, marking out which audience the party wants to target to harvest votes.
The strong presence of Dutch politicians is explained by the existence of elections in the country this year – something that has not happened in Belgium since 2019.
But Belgian parties will always be high on the list thanks to the very generous system of party financing in this country.
In 2019, about €72.2 million of taxpayer money flowed to the political parties. That generosity is unlikely to come to an end soon, given that it would take a majority of the beneficiaries to agree.