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Political Participation of Roma in Europe: Differentiating the Politics of Presence and Influence

Aidan McGarry, Timofey Agarin

The historical exclusion of Roma across Europe has left a trail of barriers and prejudices which impedes their ability to participate effectively in public life. Political participation is an international norm which demands that participation needs to be 'effective' for individuals to reverse embedded marginalisation and discrimination. The paper begins by arguing that an individual right to political participation is not enough for Roma and then explains how targeted minority participation mechanisms have not yielded adequate results meaning Roma continue to be marginalised. Democratic institutions have proven to be inadequate to address the needs of Roma. The paper then explores the meaning and substance of political participation and explores the relationship between participation and representation. Borrowing insights from deliberative democracy, namely that a democratic decision is only normatively legitimate if all those affected are included in the process of discussion and decision-making, the paper asks why Roma continue to be excluded and what can be done to address this. Their continued political exclusion cannot be explained by their demographic weight and utilitarian principles rather the answer can only be found by unpacking the relationship between identity politics, participation and representation.

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