French Politicians on Facebook and Twitter. Revitalizing political representation?
AbstractIn contrast to the previous contribution, this paper tackles the issue of transparency and social media with a more national perspective. By looking at French deputies posts on Facebook and Twitter, but also by directly inquiring how French citizens assess the issue of political transparency on social media, this analysis aims at providing new insights into the issue as to whether the presence of politicians on social media can affect power relations between citizens and politicians. The underlying rationale is to find out whether this form of transparency ultimately enhances representative democracy.Over the last decades transparency has often been depicted as the ultimate remedy for various political, economic and societal problems. Stiglitz (1999; 2000; 2002) outlines the significance of transparency for averting market failures and enhancing public financing. Similarly, Lindstedt and Naurin (2010) investigate the capacity of transparency to reduce corruption and achieve fairer and more efficient governance, while Schultz and Kenneth (1998) analyse how better means of communication and transparency can diminish risks of war and international conflicts. Recent cases and scandals have added fuel to debates about transparency. The Luxleaks affair revealed the need for more transparency with regard to existing tax schemes for multinational companies (Gotev, 2015). The opacity of the TTIP negotiations has made experts and citizens suspicious regarding the content of this trading agreement and signal the risk of lowering safety standards and endangering customers’ safety. If we turn to the realm of politics, we quickly notice that the relationship between transparency and democracy has provoked intense and convoluted debates. Is transparency of governments a necessary feature of democratic regimes? Or, is transparency a political key for better governance? In his succinct definition of democracy, Schumpeter (1942) did not yet consider transparency as an inherent and essential characteristic of democratic regimes. Democracy, he argues, is only determined by the electoral competition and free elections. By contrast, Dahl (1971) - with his famous concept of Poliarchy – places transparency at the core of the democratic framework. As he claims, a democratic regime is not only a regime in which electors have the right to freely vote for their future representatives and governments, it is also a system that allows its citizens to be fully informed - by different and independent sources of information - before they cast their ballot. This implies a free and transparent flow of information.