ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Substantive Representation Outside the Legislative Arena: What MPs Actually Do Under Conditions of Legislative Weakness

Comparative Politics
Parliaments
Representation
Empirical
Esther Somfalvy
Universität Bremen
Esther Somfalvy
Universität Bremen

Abstract

Parliaments in non-westerns or authoritarian settings are usually less involved in policy-making than their western, democratic counterparts. Consequently, they are often dismissed as weak and ineffective. With substantive representation most commonly conceptualized in terms of policy responsiveness, their members are also regularly criticized for insufficiently representing their voters. I argue that this assessment results from an overstatement of legislative activity in categorizing parliaments, and particularly in measuring substantive representation. Consequently, a greater part of what MPs in parliaments that display little policy-making activity actually do remains overlooked – an unfortunate omission in a world where the majority of countries have a legislature that falls short of the ideal of an active, law-making institution. My paper demonstrates how an exploration of the wide array of parliamentary activities in relation to MPs policy-making activities allows for a better understanding of what parliaments in different contexts do. To explore what form substantive parliamentary representation takes in parliaments that share a “legislative weakness”, I propose a novel analytical framework to map representational activities by type and scale (building on Eulau / Karps 1977 and Kim et al. 1984) beyond legislating. Based on case studies of the parliaments of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic with original data compiled by the author, I show that MPs compensate for a lack of involvement in policy-making with devoting a larger share of their time to activities in other areas, including, but not limited to parliamentary questions and individualized services to their constituents. Consequently, MPs within one legislature are expected to display a specific activity profile. The main drivers of activity patterns that MPs display include policy-making powers, electoral incentives, coordination within factions and distribution of resources available for constituency service. The cases studies are based on legal documents, government statistics and 52 original interviews with individuals involved in MP-citizen interaction - MPs, their aides, employees of factions and parties of Kazakhstan’s Mazhilis (2012-2016) and Kyrgyzstan’s Jogorku Kenesh (2010-2015), and NGOs. The paper furthers our understanding of parliamentary practices in settings outside the well-studied context of western democracies. It provides a useful tool for analysing what MPs actually do, and how their activities outside the legislative arena relate to their purported or observed inactivity in the legislative sphere. References Eulau, Heinz / Karps, Paul D. (1977): The Puzzle of Representation: Specifying Components of Responsiveness. Legislative Studies Quarterly 2(3): 233-254. Kim, Chong Lim / Bakkan, Joel D. / Ilter, Turan / Jewell, Malcolm E. (1984): The Legislative Connection: The Politics of Representation in Kenya, Korea, and Turkey. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.