Any assessment of the democratic nature of representation should look at both electoral and non-electoral representation yet few empirical studies have looked into the latter. To increase our understanding of non-electoral representation, we use Saward’s concept of representative claims, which helps bring into view a broad variety of representatives. Our empirical study of decentralized social and healthcare policies in the Netherlands describes the actors making representative claims at the local level, including elected, appointed non-elected and self-appointed non-elected representatives working on a variety of bases, such as elections, expertise and shared experience. Their democratic nature is assured by authorization and accountability mechanisms, including but not only election. However, a number of difficulties are encountered in assuring responsiveness in practice. We conclude that non-electoral representation can and does strengthen democratic representation at the local level. This study reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of the representation practices found and on what our findings mean for future studies of representation.

Additional Metadata
Keywords democracy, decentralization, healthcare policy, representation, representative claim, responsiveness, social policy
Persistent URL,,
Journal Acta Politica: international journal of political science
van de Bovenkamp, H.M, & Vollaard, H. (2017). Representative claims in practice: The democratic quality of decentralized social and healthcare policies in the Netherlands. Acta Politica: international journal of political science. doi:10.1057/s41269--017-0040-6