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

Who Peticipates? Proponents of Parliamentary Citizens‘ Initiatives and Petitions in Austrian Parliament

Democracy
Parliaments
Political Participation
Referendums and Initiatives
Jeremias Stadlmair
University of Vienna
Jeremias Stadlmair
University of Vienna
Sieglinde Rosenberger
University of Vienna

Abstract

Despite the long history of petitions in the Austrian political system, they were used seldom until the late 1980s, when the instrument gained attention in the course of increasing demands of direct involvement in decision-making processes in de jure representative institutions of the political system of Austria. At a time when established modes of representation and decision making dominated by two parties and corporatist institutions lost public support, the petitions system in Austrian parliament was reformed in 1988, raising expectations of increasing direct participation, giving a voice to marginalized interests, and therefore strengthening trust in the political system. Yet, 30 years later, little is known about the proponents of Parliamentary Citizens’ Initiatives and Petitions (PCIs) and their concrete proposals, let alone the effects of PCIs on political engagement and trust. Covering a full inventory of all PCIs submitted to the lower house of Austrian parliament from 1988 to 2017 (n=1271), the paper provides an analysis of the political background of PCI proponents and their propositions. Differentiating between established vs. new political actors and active vs. reactive proposals, the paper shows that established political actors as well as civil society actors make use of PCIs, but with different objectives: Established political actors – such as parties and corporatist organizations – primarily propose reactive PCIs, raising critique on the government and aiming to maintain the status quo in a policy area. On the other hand, civil society actors at times use PCIs to bring in new issues, which were not covered by political parties at the time. The findings suggest that some aspirations – concerning new actors and issues – to PCIs as instrument of direct participation are misguided: Petitions and at times also Citizens’ Initiatives are increasingly dominated by established actors and an opposition vs. government rationale. Nonetheless, PCIs serve as an instrument for MPs to transmit local concerns in their electoral districts into parliament. Therefore, PCIs can strengthen the interaction of citizens and politicians, providing a linkage of direct participation and representative politics.