Deliberative democracy in legislative committees: interpreting public deliberation in Kenya's subnational legislatures

Ogembo, Brenda (2022). Deliberative democracy in legislative committees: interpreting public deliberation in Kenya's subnational legislatures. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Increasingly, there are questions about the value of representative democracy. Some argue that it does not sufficiently enable citizens to express their concerns and engage government in decision-making. Consequently, there is growing demand for increased public deliberation in legislative decision-making processes. However, how legislators, legislative staff and the public make meaning of the process and conceptualisation of public deliberation has not sufficiently been studied. The thesis examines public deliberation as an emerging practice to which legislatures in Africa aspire to but often fall short. The thesis examines interpretive understandings of public deliberation with specific pre- and post-colonial contextual considerations for legislatures in Africa, and Kenya more specifically. The thesis establishes that the meanings people assign to public deliberation are informed by their ‘ideational’ background and the pursuit of thick discursive claims does not always adopt Western centric forum-based conceptions; however, that does not make the practices less deliberative. Pragmatic definitions of deliberation create greater scope to study contextualisation and evolution of deliberative practices. The thesis establishes that the emerging practices of public deliberation in Kenya’s subnational legislatures is often a performative exercise, done for show, that fails to achieve both its intention and prescribed benefits. The thesis concludes by making propositions for practical institutional reforms that can address the challenges of designing successful public deliberation in legislatures. The thesis proposes that legislatures should institute procedural reforms that create new spaces for enacting public deliberation which signal equal power between legislators and the public during public deliberation. Additionally, procedural reforms should address the various stages of public deliberation to ensure that practices are effective and do not unconsciously entrench executive power over the legislature at the cost of accountability. Moreover, procedural reforms should be accompanied by a reexamination and clear delineation of the roles of legislative staff in facilitating public deliberation. Finally, clear communication on what the public should expect from each stage of public deliberation in the legislature should form a key part of institutional reforms.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Institute of Local Government Studies
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Commonwealth Scholarship Commission
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)


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