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Reconciling Representation and Accountability: Three Visions of Democracy Compared

  • Steffen Ganghof
Abstract

An egalitarian approach to the fair representation of voters specifies three main institutional requirements: proportional representation, legislative majority rule and a parliamentary system of government. This approach faces two challenges: the under-determination of the resulting democratic process and the idea of a trade-off between equal voter representation and government accountability. Linking conceptual with comparative analysis, the article argues that we can distinguish three ideal-typical varieties of the egalitarian vision of democracy, based on the stages at which majorities are formed. These varieties do not put different relative normative weight onto equality and accountability, but have different conceptions of both values and their reconciliation. The view that accountability is necessarily linked to ‘clarity of responsibility’, widespread in the comparative literature, is questioned – as is the idea of a general trade-off between representation and accountability. Depending on the vision of democracy, the two values need not be in conflict.

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Steffen Ganghof is Professor of Political Science at the University of Potsdam. Contact email: ganghof@uni-potsdam.de.

Footnotes
References
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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
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