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ECPR General Conference 2020, University of Innsbruck

Collegial Quasi-Representative Actors – Problem or Solution in Local Decision-Making

Democracy
 
Local Government
 
Political Participation
 
Representation
 
Decision Making
 
Presenter
Agnieszka Pawłowska
Institute of Political Science, University of Rzeszow
Authors
Agnieszka Pawłowska
Institute of Political Science, University of Rzeszow

Abstract
The main objective of the paper, based on preliminary results of the research implemented in Polish cities, is to determine the way collegial quasi-representative actors (CQRA) affect the local decision-making. Those actors (sometimes called social councils in opposition to municipal councils being democratically elected representative authority) consist of individuals anchored in various social groups (e.g. senior citizens, youth), milieus (e.g. artists, academics), as well as organizations (NGOs), are familiar with the needs of their social background and/or have the expert knowledge of issues being considered by local public authorities. As the composition of those actors is not selected through democratic elections, they cannot be considered fully representative, however they might feel like speaking on behalf of groups, milieus, and organizations, therefore they are called quasi-representative. CQRA are frequently institutionalized (based on legal regulations), have a program of joint activities and perform a role of advisory bodies to local authorities. Sometimes their consultation is required by law, sometimes by general custom.
The preliminary research reveals that CQRA are inspired either bottom-up or top-down. The latter case usually occurs when legal regulations demanding or allowing CQRA are enacted. It is noticeable that if no outside (legal or social) pressure is exerted, local authorities are habitually passive. Still, there are differences between investigated cities in respect of the engagement of their authorities in creating CQRA – some are up-and-coming, some – reluctant and conservative.
The basic hypothesis of the paper is that local authorities refer to CQRA and their consultation as an unnecessary burden in local decision-making. The supporting hypothesis refers to the low know-how among local officials, as to how to use expertise or other resources of CQRA for the sake of local community. The paper will report the results of the quantitative research held in over a dozen of Polish cities performing complex social services. It will also refer to CQRA in other selected countries.
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