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The Supply of Political and Administrative Instruments of Participation: An Empirical Analysis of Local Government Choices in Portugal

Open Panel

Abstract

his project identifies a series of policy instruments for participation provided by local governments to their citizens and investigates possible trade-offs between political and administrative participation. The instruments of political participation included in the analysis are public consultations, local referendums, participatory budgets, informal contacts, discussion forums/On-line chats, and the formation of expert groups with citizen participation. The instruments of administrative participation include one stop shops, helpline online, electronic complaint systems, e-systems for monitoring processes, complaints books, and population surveys. This research was suggested by the argument developed by Dwight Waldo in his classic work The Administrative State (1948) that there is a trade-off between democracy and efficiency. Contrary to the United States, where institutional variation in the local executive body suggests that mayors have distinct value orientations depending on the incentives and constraints associated with mayor-council and council-manager systems, all Portuguese mayors are directly elected by citizens. The absence of institutional variability in Portugal demands an exploration of the determinants of the variation in political and administrative instruments of participation provided by local governments. In other words, what factors influence the adoption of instruments that facilitate political and administrative participation at local level? To what extent are there trade-offs between democracy and efficiency in choosing between participation mechanisms? We employ a theoretical model that includes the mayor’s perceptions regarding participation, the local political culture, and socioeconomic contextual factors to explain policy instrument choices. The central hypothesis is that Portuguese mayors display two mutually exclusive patterns of accountability towards citizens: the first profile highlights democratic values and political participation, direct information from citizens, and a permanent interaction between citizen preferences and executive decision-making; the second profile stresses efficiency as the main goal and the role of local governments in streamlining the provision of local public goods. We test the hypotheses derived from extant research using survey data collected from Portuguese cities and discuss the implications of our findings for the literature on local participation and governance.