Reflexive Accountability and Direct Democracy
Title: Reflexive Accountability and Direct Democracy
Author: TRECHSEL, Alexander H.
Citation: West European Politics, 2010, 33, 5, 1050-1064
The concept of democratic accountability is almost exclusively discussed in the context of representative forms of democracy, and with a strong focus on the electoral realm. This means that a large part of the literature deals with the accountability relationship that exists between political authorities and the electorate, with the former having to justify their acts to the latter. This paper attempts to shed light on potential connecting points between accountability and direct democracy. When the people have the last word, are the people responsible for the decision taken? And if so, to whom? Both questions are answered in the affirmative: when the people decide, the people are responsible for the decision. And they are responsible, as the highest organ of the state, to themselves. The accountability relationship created in such a situation departs from the classic, vertical vision and is best described as a form of 'reflexive accountability'. It is claimed that for reflexive accountability to fully deploy, provisions for popular initiatives should complement the set of direct democratic institutions.
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