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NEGAtive REpresentation: Ostracism, Recall and Negative Voting as Electoral Innovations Against Extremism


In the last two decades, Europe has been witnessing a steady rise of anti-democratic trends and disappointment with politics. Faced with these challenges, contemporary democracies appear vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. This project proposes a democratic theory of ‘negative representation’ that involves the re-activation of electoral agency with the aim of producing responsible leadership. I suggest to view representation not only from the usual viewpoint as a process of selecting ‘the best’ to govern, but also from the reverse perspective as a process of de-selecting ‘the worst’-performing governors. More specifically, I will examine three applied instances of negative democratic representation: 1) ostracism, the practice of temporarily expelling a political figure from ancient Greek city-states by decision of the demos; 2) recall elections, the removal of a public official through direct vote before the end of their term of office, practiced at present for local officers in the United States, Germany and elsewhere and 3) negative voting, the registration and counting of negative votes alongside positive ones in regular elections. These institutions are compared and discussed together as subjects of democratic theory, with a focus on their merits and limitations. The aim of this project is to introduce a new tool against extremism and political opportunism into the literature on political representation and democratic innovations and thus open the stage for further scholarly and political debate.

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Von Kraemers Alle 4
751 05 Uppsala

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Gustav Sigeman (Mr.)
EU contribution
€ 197 811,60