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When citizen deliberation enters real politics: how politicians and stakeholders envision the place of a deliberative mini-public in political decision-making


  • Christoph Niessen

    () (Université de Namur
    Université catholique de Louvain)


In the wake of the increasing use of deliberative citizen assemblies in the public sphere, this article studies how traditional policy actors receive a mini-public as ‘newcomer’ in political decision-making, despite its reliance on a fundamentally different vision of policy-making and that it substantially alters existing power distributions. Survey data collected before and after a typical mini-public case, the Citizen Climate Parliament, shows that most politicians and stakeholders welcome this ‘newcomer’ as long as it remains consultative. A typological discourse analysis of 28 semi-structured interviews with these politicians and stakeholders suggests that this attitude comes with four different views of mini-publics’ place in political decision-making: an elitist-, expert-, (re)connection- and reinvention view. Given that an important correlate of these views was the extent to which actors agreed with the recommendations of the mini-public, it shows that their views were driven both by actors’ interests in the outcome on a micro-level and by their general ideas about political decision-making on a macro-level. The findings illustrate that mini-publics may encounter opposition from both political actors and stakeholders once they aim to take a place in political decision-making that goes beyond occasional and consultative uses. At the same time, these results show that the use of mini-publics does not leave traditional representative institutions unaffected as it prompts them to think about the place that citizen deliberation should take in the political system.

Suggested Citation

  • Christoph Niessen, 2019. "When citizen deliberation enters real politics: how politicians and stakeholders envision the place of a deliberative mini-public in political decision-making," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 52(3), pages 481-503, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:policy:v:52:y:2019:i:3:d:10.1007_s11077-018-09346-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s11077-018-09346-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carolyn Hendriks, 2005. "Participatory storylines and their influence on deliberative forums," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 38(1), pages 1-20, March.
    2. Nicole Curato & Marit Böker, 2016. "Linking mini-publics to the deliberative system: a research agenda," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 49(2), pages 173-190, June.
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