Democratic legitimacy in multilevel political systems : the role of politicization at the polity-wide level in the EU and Belgium
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
Acta politica : international journal of political science. - Meppel, 1965, currens
, p. 246-265
University of Antwerp
The debate on democratic legitimacy of multilevel political systems such as supranational organizations and federal states has not yet been conducted in a comprehensive way. While there is a fierce academic debate on the democratic deficit of the EU polity, the Belgian political system has hardly been analyzed from this perspective, although some of the characteristics that are considered as problematic in the case of the EU can also be found in Belgium. This article questions whether diagnosis and remedies with respect to the EU are indeed applicable to the Belgian system. We focus on the possibility of democratically legitimizing these multi-level polities through the politicization of the polity-wide level, discussing the strategy of electoral engineering and party system reform, as well as mass media and public sphere issues. While not neglecting crucial differences, we conclude that similarities are of such a nature that some proposals for the EU level can be theoretically transferred to the Belgian federation and can contribute to our understanding of the specific issues of democratic legitimacy that multilevel systems have to deal with.