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How MPs Perceive Democratic Innovations: an Inquiry into the Belgian Case

Democracy
Elites
Parliaments
Referendums and Initiatives
Decision Making
David Talukder
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Camille Bedock
Institut d'Études Politiques de Bordeaux
Sacha Rangoni
Université Libre de Bruxelles
David Talukder
Université Libre de Bruxelles
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Abstract

In a context of democratic crisis in which the legitimacy of elected representatives is increasingly challenged (Dalton, 2004; Bedock 2017), many academics, members of the civil society and citizens have promoted alternative means of representation in order to complement or, even replace representative democracy. One of the mechanisms advocated is the development of citizen juries in which participants are drawn by lot. Yet, paradoxically, little is known about the perceptions of the key actors of representative democracies about these institutional devices potentially challenging the legitimacy of election. The Belgian case, in which the representative logic is strong and in which parties play a particularly central role offers a great field of investigation to understand how democratic innovations are perceived by elected representatives. The paper is based on around sixty short face-to-face interviews with Members of the Parliament in Belgium at the federal and regional level. It will analyze how they define “participative democracy” and how they perceive different type of democratic innovations such as: mini-publics (obligatory or consultative), referenda (obligatory or consultative), and randomly selected citizens’ assembly. The idea is to see how they classify each of those reforms in terms of importance and usefulness. More than the sole classification, the research will also analyze the way representatives talk about those innovations and how they perceive it. This research will aim at uncovering a provisional typology following the one proposed by Jacquet, Reuchamps and Schiffino (2015) about attitudes toward democratic innovations and to offer a better understanding of the variation of perceptions of MPs about different types of democratic innovations. Furthermore, a specific focus will be given on the political parties and ideologies of the MPs interviewed.