Subproject 1 - Wouter Veenendaal

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This subproject focuses on the democratic effects of the increasingly fluid allocation of competences across multiple layers of government. The sub-project first produces a much-needed categorization of the formal institutional frameworks of subnational administrations in European countries. There is enormous variety in the institutional structures of subnational administrations in European countries, and also within countries institutions of subnational units can be very dissimilar. A categorization of these institutional architectures is indispensable to study the interaction (or discrepancy) between formal and informal politics in subnational units.

To analyze the democratic consequences of multi-level governance, the sub-project subsequently examines interactions between various administrative layers in the four selected countries. Building on my extensive interviewing experience, I will conduct expert interviews with politicians involved in these interactions. These interviews are complemented by a content analysis of documents and reports produced during meetings between politicians representing various administrations.

Decentralization has been accompanied by increasing intermunicipal cooperation and the creation of new governance networks. Examining the nature and outcomes of their interactions provides crucial insights into the representativeness and responsiveness of these governance networks. The interviews and content analysis will generate vital insights into the democratic effects of multi-level governance from the perspective of politicians. To examine how these dynamics are experienced by citizens, the results of the interviews and content analysis are contrasted with the outcomes of the opinion survey conducted by subproject 2. 

Subproject 2 - Hannah Kuhn

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This subproject focuses on the characteristics of political participation in subnational communities. While advocates of decentralization claim that the proximity between citizens and politicians in small societies enhances participation and the quality of representation, small communities are also prone to informal linkages between citizens and politicians. To examine the foundations of participation in detail, an original opinion survey is organized and executed in selected subnational administrations in Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The survey focuses on citizens’ incentives to participate and the factors determining their choices. It consists of an extensive number of closed or semi-closed questions, which are joined in the format of a questionnaire that is filled in by respondents. The survey questions will be pre-tested by means of a pilot study in the Netherlands.

In addition to the survey, the subproject consists of short stages of fieldwork during municipal elections in the four selected countries. The goal of this fieldwork is to observe informal foundations of participation, and specifically a) the mobilization strategies of parties, b) the voting behavior of citizens, and c) the overall atmosphere and conduct of elections.

Subproject 3 - Denny van der Vlist

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This subproject focuses on the foundations of political competition and governance in subnational jurisdictions. The subproject analyses the characteristics, motivations, and strategies of candidates running for political office, and the dynamics of the competition between them. As part of the subproject, longer stages of participatory fieldwork before and during municipal elections in Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland The fieldwork conducted during this period consists of in-depth interviews with relevant political actors, attending campaign meetings and rallies, and a content analysis of relevant media reports about the election campaigns.

In addition to studying competition, this sub-project also looks into the effects of scale on the executive governance of subnational administrations. While smallness is said to increase democratic legitimacy and trust, small communities are also hypothesized to experience power concentration and ineffective governance. Based on a qualitative network analysis as well as the aforementioned interviews, the sub-project seeks to examine these contrasting theories.