Politics of the Low Countries

Article

Between Party Democracy and Citizen Democracy

Explaining Attitudes of Flemish Local Chairs Towards Democratic Innovations

Keywords democratic innovations, citizen participation, local politics, Flanders, Belgium
Authors Didier Caluwaerts, Anna Kern, Min Reuchamps en Tony Valcke
Author's information

Didier Caluwaerts
Didier Caluwaerts is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His research and teaching deal with Belgian and comparative politics and democratic governance in deeply divided societies. His work has been published in various journals, including European Political Science Review, West European Politics, the Journal of Legislative Studies and Acta Politica.

Anna Kern
Anna Kern is Assistant Professor at research group GASPAR at the Department of Political Science of Ghent University. Her main research interests include political participation, political equality and political legitimacy. Her work has been published in international peer-reviewed journals such as West European Politics, Local Government Studies, Social Science Research and Political Behavior.

Min Reuchamps
Min Reuchamps is Professor of Political science at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). His teaching and research interests are federalism and multilevel governance, democracy and its different dimensions, relations between language(s) and politics and, in particular, the role of metaphors, as well as participatory and deliberative methods.

Tony Valcke
Tony Valcke is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of Ghent University. He is a member of the Centre for Local Politics (CLP) and coordinator of the Teacher Training Department. His research, publications and educational activities focus on elections and democratic participation/innovation, citizenship (education), (the history of) political institutions and (local) government reform, political elites and leadership.
  • Abstract

      As a response to the perceived legitimacy crisis that threatens modern democracies, local government has increasingly become a laboratory for democratic renewal and citizen participation. This article studies whether and why local party chairs support democratic innovations fostering more citizen participation. More specifically, we analyse the relative weight of ideas, interests and institutions in explaining their support for citizen-centred democracy. Based on the Belgian Local Chairs Survey in 2018 (albeit restricting our analysis to Flanders), the central finding is that ideas matter more than interests and institutions. Ideology is alive and kicking with regard to democratic innovation, with socialist and ecologist parties and populist parties being most supportive of participatory arrangements. By contrast, interests and institutions play, at this stage, a minor role in explaining support for participatory innovations.

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