In the wake of the increasing use of deliberative citizen assemblies in the public sphere, this article studies how traditional policy actors receive a mini-public as ‘newcomer’ in political decision-making, despite its reliance on a fundamentally different vision of policy-making and that it substantially alters existing power distributions. Survey data collected before and after a typical mini-public case, the Citizen Climate Parliament, shows that most politicians and stakeholders welcome this ‘newcomer’ as long as it remains consultative. A typological discourse analysis of 28 semi-structured interviews with these politicians and stakeholders suggests that this attitude comes with four different views of mini-publics’ place in political decision-making: an elitist-, expert-, (re)connection- and reinvention view. Given that an important correlate of these views was the extent to which actors agreed with the recommendations of the mini-public, it shows that their views were driven both by actors’ interests in the outcome on a micro-level and by their general ideas about political decision-making on a macro-level. The findings illustrate that mini-publics may encounter opposition from both political actors and stakeholders once they aim to take a place in political decision-making that goes beyond occasional and consultative uses. At the same time, these results show that the use of mini-publics does not leave traditional representative institutions unaffected as it prompts them to think about the place that citizen deliberation should take in the political system.
- deliberative system
- discourse analysis