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Usted está aquí: Inicio Acerca del CLAD Publicaciones Revista del CLAD Reforma y Democracia Artículos por número publicado 031, Febrero 2005 What Is Behind the Supply of Participation? The Roll of the Instrumental and Ideological Factors in the Spanish Mechanism of Participation

What Is Behind the Supply of Participation? The Roll of the Instrumental and Ideological Factors in the Spanish Mechanism of Participation

Joan Font & Ismael Blanco

Most literature dealing with mechanisms of direct citizen participation in the public decision-making has been devoted to two main issues. First, it has discussed the advantages, risks and limitations of local participation. Second, the literature has addressed the analysis of diverse methods of organizing local participation. In this article we address a different subject: ¿which are the reasons that produce that local politicians develop participatory processes? This is a crucial question, considering that in most legal settings governments have not the obligation to develop such experiences, in which they share power with citizens.

To answer this question, we present the results of two empirical researches dealing with Catalan local governments. In the first one, we asked a wide array of local actors (politicians of government and opposition, local technicians and leaders of associations) why they thought that these experiences were developed. In the second one, we analyse in detail one of these possible reasons: does the development of a participatory process have any (positive or negative) electoral effect?

The first research concludes that the reasons to promote citizen participation in the local scope are diverse and can be grouped in three main groups. First, those experiences appear more frequently associated to several structural characteristics of municipalities. Second, they appear more often where local politicians belong to left-wing parties or when they have a previous trajectory of associational participation. Third, associations and opposition parties often say that participation experiences are mostly developed to favour the interest of the party in government, being their electoral expectations one of the most commonly cited “interests”. The second research analyses precisely these expected electoral benefits and concludes that most often theses effects do not exist: there is not a homogeneous tendency to electoral increase or drawbacks among parties favouring local participation. When these electoral effects exist, they develop through several causal mechanisms, among them identification (producing electoral benefits), loud-speaker effect or a creation of a critical networks effect (electoral drawbacks).

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