Skip to main content

More competent thus more legitimate? MPs’ discourses on deliberative mini-publics

Abstract

MPs face a dilemma when it comes to deliberative mini-publics (DMPs): in a context of distrust, they may see it as an opportunity to re-legitimize themselves and solve complex policy issues. But it could also challenge the quasi-monopoly they used to have on political decisions and undermine the role of the Parliament and the primacy of elections. The article is found on 91 face-to-face interviews with French-speaking Belgian MPs sitting in federal or regional parliaments. First, we describe the profile of supporters of DMPs. We then identify three ideal–typical discourses: the power-sharing discourse, the consultative discourse, and the elitist discourse. The contribution of this article is twofold. First, it analyzes the argumentative frames used by MPs to assess deliberative mini-publics using a large number of interviews. Second, it demonstrates that their discourses depend on their evaluation of ordinary citizens’ competence to participate and on their resulting vision of representation. Political actors mainly perceive DMPs as power-sharing instruments that would alter their elected position and the legitimacy of the election.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Despite not being a classical traditional party, DéFi has been part of almost all the government at the Regional level of Brussels since its creation in 1989, see Talukder in (forthcoming).

References

  1. Bedock, C. 2017. Reforming Democracy: Institutional Engineering in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. Bedock, C., and J.-B. Pilet. 2020. Who Supports Citizens Selected by Lot to be the Main Policymakers? A Study of French Citizens. Government and Opposition 40: 1–20.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Best, V. 2020. Democracy Reform as a Populist Policy Supply. In Continuity and Change of Party Democracies in Europe, ed. S. Bukow and U. Jun, 203–251. Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  4. Biard, B., Bottin, J., Cogels, M., and Sabbe, M. 2020 Ecologists and Democracy in Belgium : An Analysis of Party Manifestos. Working Papers Constitution-Making and Deliberative Democracy, (6). https://dial.uclouvain.be/pr/boreal/object/boreal%3A229871/datastream/PDF_01/view.

  5. Boelaert, J., S. Michon, and E. Ollion. 2017. Métier: député - Enquête sur la professionnalisation de la politique en France. Paris: Raisons d’agir.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bowler, S., T. Donovan, and J.A. Karp. 2002. When Might Institutions Change? Elite Support for Direct Democracy in Three Nations. Political Research Quarterly 55 (4): 731–754.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bowler, S., T. Donovan, and J.A. Karp. 2006. Why Politicians Like Electoral Institutions: Self Interest, Values, or Ideology? Journal of Politics 68 (2): 434–446.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Braun, V., and V. Clarke. 2006. Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3 (2): 77–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Burke, E. 1997. Edmund Burke’s Speech to the Electors of Bristol at the Conclusion of the Poll, November 1774: For Presentation to Members of the House of Commons at the Conclusion of the Poll, May 1997. Dublin: Merrion Press for the Edmund Burke Society.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Chambers, S. 2003. Deliberative Democratic Theory. Annual Review of Political Science 6 (1): 307–326.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Christensen, H.S., and Å. von Schoultz. 2019. Ideology and Deliberation: An Analysis of Public Support for Deliberative Practices in Finland. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 31 (1): 178–194.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Clarke, N., W. Jennings, J. Moss, and G. Stoker. 2018. The Good Politician: Folk Theories, Political Interaction, and the Rise of Anti-Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  13. Converse, P.E. 1964. The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics. In Ideology and Discontent, ed. D.E. Apter, 206–261. New York: The Free Press of Glencoe.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Farrell, D.M., J. Suiter, K. Cunningham, and C. Harris. 2020. When Mini-Publics and Maxi-Publics Coincide: Ireland’s National Debate on Abortion. Representation 5: 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/00344893.2020.1804441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Fournier, P., H.V.D. Kolk, R.K. Carty, A. Blais, and J. Rose. 2011. When Citizens Decide: Lessons from Citizens’ Assemblies on Electoral Reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  16. Fung, A., and R. Abers. 2003. Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance. London: Verso.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gerring, J. 2006. Case Study Research: Principles and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  18. Gherghina, S., and B. Geissel. 2020. Support for Direct and Deliberative Models of Democracy in the UK: Understanding the Difference. Political Research Exchange 2 (1): 1809474. https://doi.org/10.1080/2474736X.2020.1809474.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gherghina, S., S. Soare, and V. Jacquet. 2020. Deliberative Democracy and Political Parties: Functions and Consequences. European Political Science 19 (2): 200–211.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Goodin, R.E. 2008. Innovating Democracy: Democratic Theory and Practice After the Deliberative Turn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  21. Gourgues, G. 2013. Les politiques de démocratie participative. Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Grönlund, K., A. Bächtinger, and M. Setälä (eds.). 2014. Deliberative Mini-publics: Involving Citizens in the Democratic Process. Colchester: ECPR Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Guasti, P., and B. Geissel. 2019. Saward’s Concept of the Representative Claim Revisited: An Empirical Perspective. Politics and Governance 7 (3): 98–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Heinelt, H. 2013. Councillors’ Notions of Democracy, and Their Role Perception and Behaviour in the Changing Context of Local Democracy. Local Government Studies 39 (5): 640–660.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Jacquet, V. 2017. Explaining Non-participation in Deliberative Mini-publics. European Journal of Political Research 56 (3): 640–659.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Jacquet, V., C. Niessen, and M. Reuchamps. 2020. Sortition, Its Advocates and Its Critics: An Empirical Analysis of Citizens’ and MPs’ Support for Random Selection as a Democratic Reform Proposal. International Political Science Review. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512120949958.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Jacquet, V., N. Schiffino, M. Reuchamps, and D. Latinis. 2015. Union sacrée ou union forcée? Les parlementaires belges face à l’impératif délibératif. Participations 13 (3): 171–203.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Junius, N., J. Matthieu, D. Caluwaerts, and S. Erzeel. 2020. Is it Interests, Ideas or Institutions? Explaining Elected Representatives’ Positions Towards Democratic Innovations in 15 European Countries. Frontiers in Political Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpos.2020.584439.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Lafont, C. 2019. Democracy without Shortcuts: A Participatory Conception of Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  30. Lawrence, E.D., T. Donovan, and S. Bowler. 2009. Adopting Direct Democracy: Tests of Competing Explanations of Institutional Change. American Politics Research 37 (6): 1024–1047.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Lovenduski, J., and P. Norris. 1993. Gender and Party Politics. Calif: Thousand Oaks.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Manin, B. 1997. The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  33. Mucchielli, A., and P. Paillé. 2012. L’analyse qualitative en sciences humaines et sociales. Paris: Armand Colin.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Mudde, C. 2007. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  35. Muñoz, J. 2017. Political Trust and Multilevel Government. In Handbook on Political Trust, ed. S. Zmerli and T.W.G. Van Meer, 69–88. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  36. Newton, K., and B. Geissel (eds.). 2012. Evaluating Democratic Innovations: Curing the Democratic Malaise?. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Niessen, C. 2019. When Citizen Deliberation Enters real Politics: How Politicians and Stakeholders Envision the Place of a Deliberative Mini-public in Political Decision-Making. Policy Sciences 52 (3): 481–503.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Niessen, C., and M. Reuchamps. 2020. Institutionalising Citizen Deliberation in Parliament: The Permanent Citizens’ Dialogue in the German-speaking Community of Belgium. Parliamentary Affairs. https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsaa056.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Niessen, C., N. Schiffino, V. Jacquet, and L. Descamps. 2019. Critical Candidates: Elite Attitudes Towards the Functioning of Representative Democracy. In Parties and Voters in the Belgian Partitocracy, ed. A. Vandeleene, L. De Winter, and P. Baudewyns, 341–363. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  40. Núñez, L., C. Close, and C. Bedock. 2016. Changing Democracy? Why Inertia is Winning Over Innovation. Representation 52 (4): 341–357.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Paoletti, M. 1997. La démocratie locale et le référendum: Analyse de la démocratie locale à travers la genèse institutionnelle du référendum. Paris: L’Harmattan.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Paoletti, M., and S. Rui. 2015. Introduction. La démocratie participative a-t-elle un sexe? Participations 12: 5–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Parkinson, J., and J. Mansbridge. 2012. Deliberative Systems: Deliberative Democracy at the Large Scale. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  44. Pateman, C. 2012. Participatory Democracy Revisited. Perspectives on. Politics 10 (1): 7–19.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Patton, M.Q. 2015. Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods: Integrating Theory and Practice, 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Paulis, E., J.B. Pilet, S. Panel, D. Vittori, and C. Close. 2020. The POLITICIZE Dataset: An Inventory of Deliberative Mini-publics (DMPs) in Europe. European Political Science. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-020-00284-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Petit, G. 2017. Pouvoir et vouloir participer en démocratie: sociologie de l’engagement participatif: la production et la réception des offres institutionnelles de participation à l’échelle municipale. Paris: Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Pilet, J., Verlet, D., Heyerick, A., Delwit, P., and Block, T. 2007 Participatory democracy in Belgium. Between the politician’s mistrust and citizen apathy. In Towards DIY-Politics? Participatory and Direct Democracy at the Local Level in Europe. Vanden Broele, pp. 191–212.

  49. Reuchamps, M., and J. Suiter (eds.). 2016. Constitutional Deliberative Democracy in Europe. Colchester: ECPR Press.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Ritchie, J., J. Lewis, G. Elam, R. Tennant, and N. Rahim. 2014. Designing and Selecting Samples. In Qualitative Research Practice, 2nd ed, ed. J. Ritchie, J. Lewis, C. Mcnaughton Nichols, and R. Ormstorn, 111–142. London: SAGE Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Rojon, S., A.J. Rijken, and B. Klandermans. 2019. A Survey Experiment on Citizens’ Preferences for ‘Vote–Centric’ vs ‘Talk–Centric’ Democratic Innovations with Advisory vs Binding Outcomes. Politics and Governance 7 (2): 213–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Saward, M. 2010. The Representative Claim. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  53. Scarrow, S.E. 1999. Parties and the Expansion of Direct Democracy. Party Politics 5 (3): 341–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Schiffino, N., V. Jacquet, M. Cogels, and M. Reuchamps. 2019. Les gouvernants face aux transformations de la démocratie. Gouvernement et action publique 8 (2): 57–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Schmidt, V.A. 2013. Democracy and Legitimacy in the European Union Revisited: Input, Output and ‘Throughput’. Political Studies 61 (1): 2–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Sinardet, D. 2012. Is There a Belgian Public Sphere? What the Case of a Federal Multilingual Country Can Contribute to the Debate on Transnational Public Spheres, and Vice Versa. In Multinational Federalism: Problems and Prospects Basingstoke, ed. M. Seymour and A.G. Gagnon, 172–202. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  57. Sintomer, Y., A. Röcke, and C. Herzberg. 2016. Participatory Budgeting in Europe: Democracy and Public Governance. London: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  58. Sintomer, Y., and J. Talpin (eds.). 2011. La démocratie participative au-delà de la proximité: Le Poitou-Charentes et l’échelle régionale. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Smith, G. 2009. Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  60. Tsebelis, G. 1990. Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Perspective. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Urbinati, N., and M.E. Warren. 2008. The Concept of Representation in Contemporary Democratic Theory. Annual Review of Political Science 11 (1): 387–412.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. van Haute, E., A. Amjahad, A. Borriello, C. Close, and G. Sandri. 2013. Party Members in a Pillarised Partitocracy: An Empirical Overview of Party Membership Figures and Profiles in Belgium. Acta Politica 48 (1): 68–91.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Vandamme, P.-É. 2018. Le tirage au sort est-il compatible avec l’élection ? Revue française de science politique 68 (5): 873–894.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Vandamme, P.-É., V. Jacquet, C. Niessen, J. Pitseys, and M. Reuchamps. 2018. Intercameral Relations in a Bicameral Elected and Sortition Legislature. Politics and Society 46 (3): 381–400.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Vetter, A., H. Heinelt, and L.E. Rose. 2018. Mayor’s notions of local democracy. In Political Leaders and Changing Local Democracy : The European Mayor Basingstoke, ed. H. Heinelt, A. Magnier, M. Cabria, and H. Reynaert, 173–208. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  66. Vrydagh, J., S. Devillers, D. Talukder, V. Jacquet, and J. Bottin. 2020. Les mini-publics en Belgique (2001–2018): expériences de panels citoyens délibératifs. Courrier hebdomadaire du CRISP 2477–2478 (32): 5–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Warren, M.E., and H. Pearse. 2008. Designing Deliberative Democracy: The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sacha Rangoni.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. Some of the elements regarding the justification of the case and the empirical results are currently under consideration in the journal “Politique et sociétés”. However, the focus of the two articles are different: the one submitted in Acta Politica specifically focuses on DMPs and on MPs’ discourses, whereas the article under consideration in Politique & Sociétés is broader, focusing on participatory democracy more generally and on the profile of the supporters of different forms of participation.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

The order of the authors was draw by lot. Their implication in the research and writing process was equivalent.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file 1 (DOCX 29 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rangoni, S., Bedock, C. & Talukder, D. More competent thus more legitimate? MPs’ discourses on deliberative mini-publics. Acta Polit (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41269-021-00209-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Mini-publics
  • MPs
  • Representative democracy
  • Political competence
  • Deliberative democracy