Building: (Building A) Faculty of Law, Administration & Economics Floor: 3rd floor Room: 309
The vast majority of existing democracies relies heavily on different modes of representation to ensure the sovereignty of the people as well as the implementation of the people’s preferences as a result of laws and decisions. However, as societies differ, so do institutional arrangements – both, formal and informal. Consequently, the way in which representation is facilitated and what is prioritized in this process varies. This leads – among other things – to different roles of elites in representative democracies and to different restrictions of elite behavior or even representational quality in general. For example, parliaments with a composition strongly determined by geographical features affect elite behavior differently than parliaments in which party affiliation is the (only) dominant factor. Or, in systems with strong constitutional courts, judicial elites might become crucial for representation as they often constitute a last line of defense against legislation endangering citizen rights or weakening capabilities to hold political elites accountable. At the same time, the representation of specific societal groups could be facilitated or restricted by certain settings. It is also possible that societal norms, the nature of electoral systems or the strength of party organization, e.g., regarding candidate nomination, have a strong influence on elite behavior in terms of representation.
In sum, variation in the quality of representation is not only determined by who is representing but also by how the process of representation is structured and potentially restricted. As a result, the improvement of representation might simply be unachievable by exchanging the elite, e.g., after an election, but might instead necessitate fundamental institutional changes. This panel brings together several papers providing theoretical arguments on how representation can be facilitated in a better way as well as empirical studies showing how representation by elites is restricted or enabled in different settings. Hence, this panel can help to identify potential roads for democratic reforms and, thereby, contribute to ongoing debates about the so-called crisis of representative democracy.