American Political Science Association, 30 August - 2 September 2001, San Francisco
Imtiaz Hussain Hussain
Prol. Paseo de la Reforma 880, Lomas de Santa Fe, 01210, Mexico, D.F.
Tel. 267 4000 ext. 7599; Fax. 267 4134
Paper Title: Unrepresented Communities and US/Mexico Border Crossers
Political Science Dept., University of Pennsyulvania,
211 Stiteler Hall, 208 S. 37th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6215
Phone 898-4209; Email: email@example.com
Paper title: Unrepresented Communities and Global Democracy
Brookings Institution, Washington, DC
Constitutional Democracy presupposes some form of representative government in which all citizens of a state have the opportunity to participate in meaningful electoral processes that give them a voice in the making and implementation of public policies. Permissible exceptions include children, criminals, aliens, and other categories excluded from representation as a matter of public policy. Some eligible people decide not to vote, which means that they voluntarily choose not to be represented. However, in most states there are important categories of people who, in principle, have the right to vote but, in fact, are not given a voice. These include members of minority groups refused admission to major political parties or, because of discrimination, they are in practice denied the opportunity to vote or they belong to parties that can never expect to win or participate in a ruling coalition.
No doubt there are many marginal cases, but exclusion from effective suffrage is a significant problem for members of many minority ethnic communities within a country and for citizens of a country residing abroad. Lack of representation can generate frustration and anger, even revolutionary sentiment and anti-social behavior. Proportional Representation is viewed as a remedy that may permit small communities to gain an effective political voice. This may be part of the solution but the prevalence of single-member districts in many countries makes it unrealistic. Moreover, in some constitutional systems, PR can undermine the capacity of a regime to govern effectively. Perhaps more importantly, any legislative body charged with the primary responsibility for making laws can be fatally handicapped by the presence of too many parties. A second chamber with limited powers may, perhaps, take responsibility for representing diverse communities not effectively represented in the first chamber. This and other possibilities that can open democratic processes to effective use by hitherto unrepresented communities need to be examined.
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