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The Right to Compete for Trust: A Missing Account of the Right to Stand for Election

Democracy
Voting
Normative Theory
Voting Behaviour
P14
Emanuela Ceva
University of Geneva
Nikolas Kirby
University of Oxford
Annabelle Lever
Sciences Po Paris
Attila Mraz
Eötvös Loránd University

Wednesday 16:00 - 17:00 (26/01/2022)


Abstract

The right to vote has received ample attention in normative political theory and philosophy. However, its counterpart, the right to stand for election, has been largely neglected. This neglect is most obvious in mid-20th c. elitist and pluralist attempts to account for the value of democracy. Elitist models of democracy (Weber 1919, Schumpeter 1943) are concerned with the voters’ right to remove public officials from office—but show little concern for anyone’s claim-right to compete for office. Pluralist models of democracy (e.g., Dahl 1956/2006, 1985) focus on the competition of various interest groups for political power but show little appreciation for the individual right to compete. Although both assume universal suffrage and an equal right to stand as a candidate for legislative office, their accounts of democracy therefore leave it unclear why the one should imply the latter. Some recent accounts of political authority and representation—especially lottocratic theories (Guerrero 2014, Landemore 2013, López-Guerra 2011 & 2014, Stone 2011) and normative accounts of descriptive representation (e.g., Philips 1997, Mansbridge 1999)—have put more emphasis on access to political office. However, we argue that both fail to account for a central reason to care about the right to stand for election. We argue that the core of this right is the formal right and appropriate opportunity to compete for fellow citizens’ trust in the conduct of public affairs. The right to stand for election so construed is of particular significance for members of disadvantaged groups and minorities (Piscopo 2020), yet it also serves a more general individual interest of the right-holder in being, and being seen as, a political equal. Although lottocratic / sortition-based alternatives to electoral democracy are rightly concerned with our opportunities to rule, they fail adequately to reflect our interests in competing for the trust of citizens as their peers, rather than their servants or masters. At the same time, our focus complements theories of descriptive representation which are mostly concerned with the rights of citizens to be equally represented whatever the ascriptive group to which they belong, but which assume, rather than explain, an equal right to stand. This paper builds on the voter-centered perspective on democracy which we have developed as part of the Horizon-2020 team of REDEM (www.redem-h2020.eu. While any citizen is entitled to vote whatever others think of them or their likely vote, they may hold democratic office only as the representatives of others. The relationship of trust thereby implied, we show, has important implications for the differences between the rights and duties of voters, candidates and legislatures and helps to bridge the theoretical gap between a renewed interest in the political theory of parties and partisanship on the one hand, and the ethics of voting on the other.