Participatory democracy and its forms at the local level in European countries

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Author: Alexander Cherkasov

Keywords: citizens’ participation; decentralization of power; local communities; municipalities; neighborhood councils; participatory budgeting; participatory democracy; public life

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2021-6-15-33


Рarticipatory democracy is usually analyzed in the context of modernization of the whole democratic system, considering the fact that social and political changes of recent decades and certain disappointments of the electorate in elections and the electoral process determine the necessity of wider citizens’ participation and the use of its new, more interactive forms. It is these forms that are intended to serve as a significant addition to traditional democratic mechanisms and contribute to the modernization of existing municipal systems. There is a rather complex and dialectical relationship between participatory and representative democracy, and the former serves not so much as an alternative but as an important complement to the latter, though being able to give it some competition. Participative democracy is based on timely and constant informing of the population, although information alone doesn’t enable citizens to automatically influence the decision-making process. This requires a whole range of instruments of participatory democracy implemented with the support of the population and various segments of civil society. Participatory democracy can be bureaucratic and sometimes unstable. Various forms of participatory democracy are often initiated by municipal authorities themselves, thus setting certain permissible limits on participatory initiatives and letting organized interests and pressure groups that have sufficient resources to subordinate individual democratic forms to their needs come to the fore. Civic participation sometimes thus becomes not so much a means of modernizing the political system and a channel for introducing innovations, but rather a management tool. At the same time participative democracy remains the most important instrument of socialization of the population and for its involvement in solving local issues, as evidenced by the growing interest of citizens in different forms of this type of democracy. Under the influence of common processes of Europeanization and the introduction of new public management, local democracy is adapting to new challenges and modern realities (even by trial and error), and the search is underway for new ways of its development, previously narrowed by a one-sided emphasis on representative democracy.

About the author: Alexander Cherkasov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Chief Research Fellow, Human Rights Department, Institute of State and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Cherkasov A. (2021) Partisipativnaya demokratiya i eyo formy na mestnom urovne v evropeyskikh stranakh [Participatory democracy and its forms at the local level in European countries]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 30, no. 6, pp. 15–33. (In Russian).


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