Whom to Represent? Role Orientations of Legislators in Europe

Bernhard Wessels

in Political Representation and Legitimacy in the European Union

Published in print June 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296614
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600227 | DOI:
 Whom to Represent? Role Orientations of Legislators in Europe

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This chapter is the fifth of six on the question of political representation in the EU. It analyses to what extent institutional differences between the member‐states of the EU are constraining the attitudes of representatives in respect of one major aspect—whom to represent; this is done by exploring the role orientations of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and comparing them with those of members of 11 national parliaments (MNPs). The first section of the chapter presents a brief conceptualization of representational roles by looking at general conclusions from previous research, and defining 5 representational foci in two dimensions: group specificity (party voters; specific (interest) groups) and regional scope (constituency; all people in the nation concerned; all people in Europe). The next section looks at the distributions of these five foci of representation across parliamentary levels (MEPs or MNPs) over the 15 member‐states of the EU; data are from the 1996 European Parliamentarians Study, and indicate striking differences between countries. The last (and largest) section of the chapter looks for explanations for these differences in foci of representation. These include personal factors (social background; political experience), institutional settings (the regional dimension—the relationship between role orientation, competitiveness and electoral systems; the group dimension—the relationship between role orientation and the encompassiveness and inclusiveness of interest group systems; and the European focus of representation in relation to the size and experience of a member‐state).

Keywords: competitiveness; constituency; electoral systems; Europe; European Parliament; European Parliamentarians Study; EUinstitutional differences; interest groups; members of national parliaments; members of the European Parliament; member‐states; nation; party voters; political experience; political representation; representational foci; representational roles; role orientation; social background

Chapter.  7635 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: European Union

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