How can non-elected representatives secure democratic representation?

fossheim-karin2Karin Fossheim

Research on the democratic legitimacy of non-elected actors influencing policy while acting as representatives is often lacking in governance literature, despite being increasingly relevant worldwide in both established and emerging democracies. Recent theories of representation argue that there are non-electoral mechanisms to appoint such non-elected representatives and hold them responsible for their actions. Consequently, democratic non-electoral representation can be achieved. Through in-depth, empirical analysis, this article explores democratic non-electoral representation in governance networks by comparing how non-elected representatives, their constituents and the decision-making audience understand the outcome of representation to benefit the constituency, authorisation and accountability. This analysis explores the perspectives of the non-elected representatives, the constituency and the audience and discusses the theoretical implications of the results.

The research findings conclude that all three groups mostly share the understanding of democratic non-electoral representation as ongoing interactions between representatives and constituents, multiple (if any) organisational and discursive sources of authorisation and deliberative aspects of accountability. All of these are mechanisms that, in the absence of elections, can secure democratic representation. Contrary to what the theory suggests, accountability based on sanctions is not considered essential to ensure democratic non-electoral representation.

These findings make an important contribution to the literature on non-electoral representation in policymaking and to the broader literature on representative democracy.


You can read the original research in Policy & Politics

Fossheim Karin (2022) How can non-elected representatives secure democratic representation? Policy and Politics DOI: https://doi.org/10.1332/030557321X16371011677734

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The media and public accountability: mirror or spark?

Thomas Schillemans & Sandra Jacobs
Thomas Schillemans & Sandra Jacobs

by Thomas Schillemans and Sandra Jacobs

Europe currently faces the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Many European states are confronted with large numbers of migrants in need of immediate care, food and shelter. Responsible public agencies, such as the UK’s Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) in the Netherlands, face exceptionally complex challenges. A challenge that is aggravated by the fact that they are constantly criticized in the media and by politicians when things go wrong.

In our Policy & Politics article entitled Media and public accountability: typology and exploration, we explore the ways in which mass media are involved in public accountability processes by looking at examples of public sector organisations in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

In the Netherlands, for instance, COA was blamed for concocting unpleasant surprises for local governments when the organization decided to immediately direct large numbers of asylum seekers to their municipalities. A Dutch mayor called the situation ‘chaotic’: “The COA lost control of the temporary housing of refugees”, he said. COA was held accountable and had to explain its behaviour to politicians and Continue reading