Crises require fast responses by the state, no matter whether they follow from natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or the spread of diseases. Motivated by this rational, most constitutions equip their executives with extensive competencies to cope with emergency situations, so that governments can react on short notice and in a flexible manner. While the measures taken by governments to address the COVID-19 outbreak currently receive a lot of media attention, it is far less visible how parliaments respond to these special circumstances. However, legislatures have the right and obligation to hold governments accountable in ordinary and extraordinary times. In this blog contribution, I therefore explore how representatives have been overseeing the government in the COVID-19 crisis during the last weeks.… Read More Business as usual? The COVID-19 crisis in German state legislatures
It is a common assumption that the election of more women to parliament leads to a higher representation of women’s interests in the legislative arena. Because female members of parliament (MPs) share gender-specific experiences with the female population – so the argument goes – it is expected that they are more concerned with women-specific topics and that they also represent these issues more frequently in the parliamentary process compared with their male colleagues (Phillips 1995). On the one hand, this is corroborated by a number of studies showing that female legislators have different priorities than male MPs (Coffé and Reiser 2018), that they increasingly engage in plenary and committee debates on women-specific interests (Bäck, Debus and Müller 2014), and that they introduce more law initiatives on women-specific interests (Volden, Wiseman, and Wittmer 2018). On the other hand, however, many of these studies also reveal that the legislative behavior of female MPs does not always indicate strong commitments to the representation of women-specific interests. Besides the justified critique that women are not a homogenous group with a fixed set of interests, these results also spurred the conclusion that the link between descriptive and substantive representation of women seems to be more complicated than previously assumed and that we should focus on the analysis of the conditions and institutional settings under which female legislators are able to act on behalf of women.… Read More Do female MPs represent women’s interests in parliament? Yes, but only if the electoral system permits it!