Institute for Migration & Ethnic Studies

Challenges to Democratic Representation

Political Science

Democracies have been more successful than other existing political systems in safeguarding the common good, for example through the protection of basic human rights and equal opportunities. However, history also shows numerous examples of unstable democracies that have been replaced by authoritarian dictatorships or countries formally represented as democracies where opposition groups are constrained to the extent that we can no longer consider them ‘true' democracies.

The Democratic Representation programme group addresses the conditions under which regimes can maintain stability and safeguard basic principles of democratic accountability, representation and legitimacy. Studying and theorising the conditions under which democracies live up to their principles and aspirations - while still maintaining stability - is not only relevant to hybrid or immature democracies, such as those found in contemporary Russia, Egypt and Indonesia. It is also applicable to established democracies in Western Europe, North America and Australia, as well as to still consolidating democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. Worldwide, we witness political parties and powers in crisis, parties losing members, increasingly critical and vocal citizens and diminished public trust in party politics. Mass migration, however, has had - and keeps on having - an impact on democracies. In how far immigrants feel part of the demos of their new homeland and feel represented by its political institutions tells us how democratic representation functions in the context of a culturally diverse society.

This programme group investigates the consequences of these developments for democratic governance. The empirical research focuses particularly on political parties, civil society (most notably, social movements and pressure and interest groups), mass media, citizens and their interests, opinions, feelings and preferences and political ideas. Empirical inquiry also concentrates on the manner in which new immigrants and other ‘minority groups' - whether constituted on the basis of ethnoreligious differences, gender or sexual orientation - are included or excluded in civil society, mobilised in political parties and represented in the media.

Published by  AISSR

6 December 2012