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3.6 Reforming democracy, democratic legitimacy and majority bonuses with Dr Camille Bedock

Real Democracy Now! a podcast

Release Date: 04/15/2019

In this episode, I’m talking with Dr Camille Bedock about her book Reforming Democracy: Institutional engineering in Western Europe, 1990 - 2010 and also about her more recent research with Sophie Panel on citizen conceptions of how democratic their democracy is and with Nicolas Sauger on how electoral systems with majority bonuses affect electoral competition.
 
Camille's book is based on her thesis and looks at electoral and other reforms in Italy and France [1.35] with a focus on the determinants and processes of institutional reform. 
 
For her research, Camille focused on formal institutions [3.50] which regulate the functioning of democracy. In particular, she looked at bundles of reforms [5.25] building on Lijphart’s work in Patterns of Democracy, finding that often institutional components 'move together.’ She proves examples of such bundles of reforms [8.05] such as changes to the length of the Presidential term and the electoral calendar term in France. Her research concludes that bundles of reforms are the norm rather than the exception.
 
Camille identifies three key findings of her research [10.15]
  1. Institutional reforms are not exceptional or rare
  2. Political elites make reforms in reaction to events rather than in a proactive way
  3. To understand change and stability we need to look at the processes of reform which are either consensual or conflictual.
In considering democratic legitimacy and trust [13.45] Camille notes that whilst lack of legitimacy can lead to institutional reforms there is little evidence available about whether institutional reforms can restore legitimacy and trust. And she points out that legitimacy and trust may depend on an individual’s views on how democracy should operate. Her recent research with Sophie Panel [16.15] on the views of French people on how democratic their democracy is, suggests that people who hold minimalist views on democracy have a higher regard for their democracy as do people who voted for the party which won the last election.
 
Finally, Camille in conjunction with Nicolas Sauger [18.55] has looked at the impact of majority bonus systems on electoral competition and representative outcomes.