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Technocratic Governments: Democracy by other Means

Giulia Pastorella

In Europe, technocratic governments have become a popular topic of debate. Commentators havebeen nearly unanimous in condemning them as ‘suspension of democracy’ or even as ‘the end of democracy as we know it’. However, no academic analysis has been provided to assess whethertechnocratic governments are indeed incompatible with democracy. The present paper intends to fill this gap by assessing technocratic governments’ compatibility with different dimensions of European liberal democracies. The paper will focus on comparing the main dimensions of democracy (including representation, deliberation and partisanship) in ‘standard’ party governments and in technocratic governments. It will also look at whether technocratic governments are constitutionally allowed and democratically legitimate. The paper will conclude that technocraticgovernments are not incompatible with European democratic political systems but that they are still a worrying phenomenon, in so far as they reveal those democratic shortcomings which remain hidden in normal party governments: loosening of delegation and accountability ties between votersand parties, and parties and governments, increasing external pressures on domestic political actors,and the weakening of ideology-based politics. The paper will add further elements to reinforce the already vast literature on the crisis of – especially party – democracy in Europe.

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