Faking Democracy with Prisoners' Voting Rights
16 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 11, 2013
In the dispute between Strasbourg and Westminster over prisoners’ voting rights, the arguments of both sides help to consolidate the emerging ‘post-democratic’ political regime in Europe. The UK government’s position in Hirst v UK, and the judgments of the Strasbourg courts in Hirst, Frodl v Austria and Scoppola v Italy, all assume that democracy is no more than a matter of voter-consumers choosing between competing alternatives in the political market place. This minimalist conception of democracy also underlies the argument that enfranchising convicted prisoners will contribute to their rehabilitation. If, by contrast, democracy is thought of as a regime that seeks to achieve the collective self-government of the people, then one of its principles is that only those who enjoy civil liberties and formal independence of the executive can be self-governing citizens. Enfranchising prisoners subverts that democratic principle.
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