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By Olle Törnquist, Neil Webster and Kristian Stokke (Editors)

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Although Törnquist suggests that the relationship between the representative and the represented tends to revolve around authorisation and accountability, representation is a plural concept. 3 More importantly, representation itself requires at least the establishment of two preconditions: appropriate institutions and citizen control over elected representatives. Taking my theoretical cue from precisely these insights, in this essay, I wish to (1) map out the problems that have been identified with the concept of representation in recent debates, (2) see whether civil society organisations that have come to substitute for citizen action can resolve the malaise of democracy, and (3) offer some suggestions on what can be done about the tension between the project of participative democracy and that of representation.

In fact, it is the interaction between political and a strong civil societies that is crucial and 18 OLLE TÖRNQUIST prevents elites from dominating the new institutions and thus retain their control. Hence, it is crucial that the institutional design is not to provide ready-made rules and regulations (in accordance with the new ‘sequencing of democracy thinking’) but to enable wider popular participation to both alter the relations of power in a democratic way and gradually introduce new constitutions.

All we can hope is that citizens are sufficiently aware of how far the latitude exercised by representatives can extend. If representatives deviate too much from the mandate, citizens should be able to exercise their own judgment in and through elections. What then is to be done? Törnquist suggests that processes of authorisation and accountability should be strengthened through the establishment of appropriate institutions and modalities of citizen control over elected representatives. What tasks the representative should perform, what he or she should be representing, whether representation should be based on territory or group identities, and whether the representative should be representing the interests of that section of the constituency that did not vote for him or her are significant questions in themselves, but not, as suggested above, intractable.

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