New Perspectives from Legal and Political Theory
Ethnic Representation in National Legislatures – Normative Foundations and Challenges
In reports of minority rights groups as well as in the literature on democratic theory one can often find the claim that one of the criteria for a democratic parliament is that it should reflect the social diversity of the population in terms of gender, language, religion or ethnicity. Frequently this goes together with the demand for group representation through specialised measures and institutions that expand the traditional understanding of representative government and alter the electoral competition. These demands have been both supported and challenged by democratic theorists, governments and minority groups. This chapter reviews the current literature on group and descriptive representation and focuses especially on the normative debate that has formed around it.
While reading about the political representation of ethnic minorities, one frequently finds demands for a stronger political participation of marginalised groups. These voices often advocate group representation and a mirroring of the constituency by the legislature in social and ethnic characteristics as means for enhancing the leverage of minority groups on policy outcomes. For example, Anders Johnsson (Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union) and Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi (Practice Director, Democratic Governance Group of the Bureau of Development Policy, UNDP) find that
one of the ways in which they can exercise their right to development is for minorities and indigenous peoples to play a greater part in policy-making and decision-making. Yet until recently, this has seldom happened. The frequent absence of minorities and indigenous peoples from...
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