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Reconceptualizing Political Accountability

Joy Marie Moncrieffe
International Political Science Review / Revue internationale de science politique
Vol. 19, No. 4 (Oct., 1998), pp. 387-406
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1601513
Page Count: 20
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Reconceptualizing Political Accountability
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Abstract

The ambiguities surrounding the concept of democracy have resulted in a rather abstract listing of defining components and procedural norms. At the core of these procedures is the notion that effective administration requires elected officials to be accountable to the public. Periodic elections guarantee this accountability and the effectiveness of the democratic system depends on their regularity and character. The critical issues, however, are whether this basic mechanism for securing accountability can adequately compel governments and public officials to be responsive to the citizens and whether accountability thus conceived and exercised, provides a sufficiently comprehensive interpretation. This article argues that accountability matters and that for it to have some meaningful impact on social, political and economic outcomes, it cannot be limited to its traditional interpretation nor secured solely through the procedures of a conventional representative democracy. /// L'ambiguïté du terme 'démocratie' fait que nous le définissons de façon abstraite et en termes de procédures. Nous attachons notamment une importance toute particulière à la tenue d'élections périodiques. L'article exprime des doutes sur la validité de ce modèle--modèle prescrit par la Banque mondiale comme par l'ensemble des pays occidentaux--notamment lorsqu'on l'applique au tiers monde. Une meilleure prise sur les faits s'obtiendrait à partir d'une notion de démocratie qui tiendrait compte des obligations envers l'étranger, des relations de pouvoir internes, des institutions informelles aussi bien qu'officielles, et qui tiendrait compte enfin du type de société civile du pays concerné.

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