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When the people speak – and decide: deliberation and direct democracy in the citizen assembly of Glarus, Switzerland

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This article analyses deliberative direct democracy. It asks whether ordinary citizens are willing and able to deliberate and whether their participation in policy-making has the intended effect. We apply Bayesian logistic analyses to 500 speeches held between 2000 and 2012 at the Glarus citizen assembly. We find that every second government proposal is challenged through deliberation, with success to be higher if well argued for. However, politicians are both better at deliberating and more successful than ordinary citizens. Thus, citizens still need the political elite to do their bidding – or at least not to argue well when opposing them.
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Keywords: Switzerland; deliberation; direct democracy; policy-making

Affiliations: University of Berne, Switzerland

Appeared or available online: 23 June 2017

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