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Negotiating Secrecy. How Parliament and Executive Debate the Possibilities and Limits of Executive Secrecy

Democracy
Executives
Parliaments
Negotiation
Decision Making
Dorothee Riese
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden
Dorothee Riese
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden

Abstract

Democratic decision-making requires some kind of information and transparency. However, while the 1990s showed a significant spread of freedom of information laws and transparency as a political concept, there are also many accounts of executive secrecy. Some (democratic) goals supposedly cannot or not effectively and efficiently be achieved in the open. How, then, does secrecy fit into democratic systems? The Paper argues that this tension cannot be resolved theoretically, but is subject to negotiation between actors and political balancing of different values and expected risks and benefits. A closer look at how actors argue and decide about secrecy and disclosure rules therefore is necessary. Therefore, the Paper empirically traces the negotiation of secrecy rules at the example of public private partnerships in the German Bundestag. Based on a documents analysis of Bundestag debates and expert interviews with MPs and executive actors, the case study shows how secrecy rules in the field of public private partnerships are negotiated. The paper focuses on how actors put forward and deal with conflicting claims for openness and secrecy. Since public private partnerships are a case of modern types of statehood or governance, where private and public interests are entangled, it provides an especially interesting example of how secrecy and disclosure are formalized and discussed. The Paper thus gives an account of how secrecy is integrated into politics and legitimized in practice.