Hacking the representative system through deliberation? The organization of the Agora party in Brussels

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Abstract

Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a variety of deliberative practices in the organization and activities of political parties. What remains unclear, however, is how parties can promote deliberative democracy in an environment that remains predominantly representative. To investigate this tension, we study the Agora party in Brussels. Agora competed for the first time in the 2019 regional elections in Brussels with the aim of institutionalizing a permanent, randomly selected Citizen’s Assembly with legislative power in the Brussels Capital Region and immediately gained a seat in the Brussels Regional Parliament. Based on an in-depth qualitative study including 20 semi-structured interviews with a broad range of party members and document analysis, we study whether and how Agora’s organizational structure, i.e. its leadership and centralization, its intra-party democracy, and its organizational resources, allow it to promote deliberative democracy in a representative context. We argue that Agora experiences tensions between its deliberative ideals and its representative means and that there is a looming danger of becoming “just another part” of the system. However, it succeeds in simultaneously rejecting and competing in the representative system by adopting a stratarchical party organization.

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Junius, N., Caluwaerts, D., Matthieu, J., & Erzeel, S. (2021). Hacking the representative system through deliberation? The organization of the Agora party in Brussels. Acta Politica. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41269-021-00226-3

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