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democratic deficit

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The term denotes a perceived deficiency in the way a particular political arrangement works in practice against a benchmark as to how it is supposed to work in theory. Although this definition does not preclude any democratic systems of political domination from potentially suffering from a democratic deficit, the term features most prominently in the context of European Union (EU) institutions and policy‐making. The use of the term mirrors a general, yet multifaceted dissatisfaction with the way democracy works at the EU level. The use of the term usually implies a connotation with a procedural perspective of democratic legitimacy. Decisions are thereby viewed as legitimate if they fulfil certain procedural requirements, such as direct or indirect citizen participation through elections as well as scrutiny and accountability of policy‐makers. Not only is there broad agreement on these principles across democratic states, within the EU there is also broad agreement that the delegation and pooling of sovereignty reduces the possibility of national parliaments and citizens to hold national policy‐makers accountable. Yet, there is disagreement conerning solutions to the democratic deficit. For example, some see the empowerment of the powers of the directly elected European Parliament the best solution to solve the democratic deficit. Others argue that national policy‐makers can only be accountable to national parliaments and thus reject the proposal to empower the European Parliament. This diversity in opinion recurs most prominently to differences in national constitutional histories (e.g. the Federal State analogy in Germany and national parliamentary sovereignty doctrine in the UK).

Berthold Rittberger


Subjects: Social sciencesPolitics

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