Keywords: Democratic governance, quality of democracy, elections and electoral participation, vertical democratic accountability, institutional creativity
The core concern of the article is the development of democratic governance since World War Two. In the late Sixties and early Seventies Western democracies were challenged with claims of an encompassing legitimacy crisis. Empirical research could not validate this claim but found that the established repertory of electorally oriented forms of participation was broadened by an increasing tendency of citizens to engage in non-institutionalized forms of protest politics, a tendency which, however, did not signal a decrease in the legitimacy of the democratic process. The eclipse of totalitarian communist rule after 1989 not only enhanced the spread of democratic governance, but also led political science to a new research topic: the quality of democracy. In this general framework the article raises the question of how accountable non-institutionalized political participation is compared to electoral participation. The main conclusion is that political theory up to now has not sufficiently dealt with the problems of insufficient vertical accountability of non-institutionalized action and needs to consider institutional ways for creating the kind of accountability which elections can produce.