Accountable Democracy: Citizens as the 4th Power of Government

87 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2008

See all articles by Guillem Compte Nunes

Guillem Compte Nunes

Centro de Estudios Sociológicos - El Colegio de México

Date Written: July 20, 2008


Inadequate political accountability is at the root of current symptoms of democratic discontent in established democracies. For structural reasons, the recent proliferations of vertical participatory initiatives and horizontal accountability agencies have not effectively addressed the accountability gap. This paper introduces a novel structure, here called accountable democracy, for enforcing adequate political accountability. Unlike conventional approaches for democratic improvement, accountable democracy embraces representation through elections.

After a review of democratic deficits and existing accountability mechanisms, innovative accountability strategies are examined. Derived from these strategies, a set of principles define the conceptual space for an effective solution. Accountable democracy is developed against these standards. Its fundamental premise is that citizens constitute a fourth power of government. This power is realized through a new institution, the accountancy, which represents the political accountability interests of citizens in the state. The accountancy integrates citizen-driven processes for ex ante, prospective, and retrospective accountabilities. They include accountability juries, societal wellbeing indicators, citizens questioning forums, and ex ante regulation. After conceptual refinement, accountable democracy may be tested by a trial.

Keywords: political accountability, democratic innovation, participatory governance

Suggested Citation

Compte Nunes, Guillem, Accountable Democracy: Citizens as the 4th Power of Government (July 20, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Guillem Compte Nunes (Contact Author)

Centro de Estudios Sociológicos - El Colegio de México ( email )

Camino al Ajusco 20,
Pedregal de Santa Teresa
México, D.F.

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