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Acta Politica

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 98–120 | Cite as

Representative claims in practice: The democratic quality of decentralized social and healthcare policies in the Netherlands

  • Hester van de BovenkampEmail author
  • Hans Vollaard
Original Article

Abstract

Any assessment of the democratic nature of representation should look at both electoral and non-electoral representation yet few empirical studies have looked into the latter. To increase our understanding of non-electoral representation, we use Saward’s concept of representative claims, which helps bring into view a broad variety of representatives. Our empirical study of decentralized social and healthcare policies in the Netherlands describes the actors making representative claims at the local level, including elected, appointed non-elected and self-appointed non-elected representatives working on a variety of bases, such as elections, expertise and shared experience. Their democratic nature is assured by authorization and accountability mechanisms, including but not only election. However, a number of difficulties are encountered in assuring responsiveness in practice. We conclude that non-electoral representation can and does strengthen democratic representation at the local level. This study reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of the representation practices found and on what our findings mean for future studies of representation.

Keywords

democracy decentralization healthcare policy representation representative claim responsiveness social policy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the respondents who participated in this study. They also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers, the participants of the workshop on local politics at the Politicologen etmaal 2015 and the participants of the ECPR Joint Sessions on democratic innovations 2015 for their useful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Health Policy & ManagementErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute of Political ScienceLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

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