Zeit und Ort: Montag, 17. Juni 2019 | 17:30 Uhr | Breitscheidstraße 2 | Raum M 2.31
Recent debates in democratic theory have emphasized the democratic potential of bottom-up referendum and initiative processes. However, these contributions have so far ignored a longstanding objection to these processes, according to which they should not be introduced in democratic systems because they unduly reinforce the power and influence of interest groups over the decision-making processes – an objection based on the widely accepted empirical fact that they are generally triggered by already organized and resourceful interest groups. This paper provides reasons to reject this objection. Reconceptualizing interest groups as nonelected representatives, I argue that their empowerments are better checked in systems that include bottom-up popular vote processes than in purely representative systems. On the one hand, their additional formal empowerments – demanding popular votes and mass campaigns on questions of their choosing – are paired with formal mechanisms of preemptive authorization and retrospective accountability that guarantee their democratic legitimacy. On the other hand, their informal empowerments – increased opportunities to be included and heard the empowered space in pre-legislative and legislative phases – depend on their capacity to mobilize citizens. Unlike empowered lobbies in purely representative systems, a wider diversity of interest groups can thus become empowered in systems that include bottom-up popular vote processes and they are encouraged to engage with the public in ways that can enhance representation.