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Reforming DemocracyInstitutional Engineering in Western Europe$

Camille Bedock

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779582

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198779582.001.0001

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(p.298) Appendix 10 Methodology of the Case Studies

(p.298) Appendix 10 Methodology of the Case Studies

Reforming Democracy

Camille Bedock

Oxford University Press

1. Sources Triangulated in the Case Studies

Semi-directed interviews were conducted with academics, experts, journalists, civil society activists, policy advisers, and politicians involved in the three processes of reform, during short and intensive stays: one month for the twenty-three interviews conducted in Ireland in May 2012 (principally in Dublin); around two months for the sixteen interviews conducted in France between January and March 2013 in Paris; and a bit more than one month for the fourteen interviews conducted between June and July 2013, mostly in Florence and Rome. The interviews lasted, on average, around fifty minutes (from thirty minutes to an hour and a half). A different questionnaire comprising about twenty questions was used consistently for each country, and the use of interviews was facilitated by the fact they were always conducted in the native language of the interviewees. For each of the three interview guides, I adopted a sequential approach for the analysis of the reforms, dividing the processes into different phases (emergence of the issue of reform, construction of the agenda of reforms, negotiation, and adoption) in order to facilitate comparisons between the different reforms. This also means that before going out into the field, a fair amount of time was spent studying the relevant secondary sources (reports, grey literature, and press articles), in order to get a fair idea of the sequencing of the reforms, and, of course, to identify the key people who should be interviewed.

In addition to these fifty-three interviews which have constituted the most important research material for the three case studies, the empirical corpuses have been complemented with a significant number of reports led by experts or by politicians in and outside of parliament, analysis of the press coverage of the reforms over a long period of time, occasionally archives, and consultation of the most relevant parliamentary debates, which are systematically available online for the period covered in all three countries. I therefore applied the triangulation strategy advocated by Davies, advocated in particular when elite interviewing constitutes the major material (2001). The analysis of the press was systematized in order to lead to some additional quantitative analyses in the French case, while I re-used the study of the integrality of the debates on electoral reform (both in committees and in plenary sessions) that (p.299) I conducted in Italy for my Master’s dissertation (Bedock 2009). In each case, I focused on several daily newspapers, trying as much as possible to use sources with different political sensibilities—ideally, one left-wing, one centrist, and one-right wing newspaper—and, when relevant (in Italy) published in different regions of the country. In Ireland, I consulted articles from the Irish Times (Dublin, centre-left), the Irish Independent (Dublin, centre-right) between 2009 and 2013. In France, the three main newspapers (Libération, left, Le Monde, centre, and Le Figaro, right) were systematically reviewed on the reduction of the presidential term and the reordering of the electoral calendar for a period covering July 1999 to June 2001. In Italy, the press archives cover a period ranging from January 2003 to July 2007, including in particular articles from La Repubblica (Rome, centre-left), Il Corriere della Sera (Milano, centre), la Stampa (Torino, centre-right), and Il Giornale (Milan, right).

2. Access to the Field

The interviews were based on a ‘non-probability sampling approach’, as it is of course more suitable for process-tracing (Tansey 2007): in all three cases, the first important task consisted of identifying the key political actors in charge during the process. The interviews conducted can fall within the category of elite interviews, elites being intended as ‘those with close proximity to power or policymaking’ (Lilleker 2003, 207). Email was generally used for first contacts, including an explanation about my research and a justification of my wish to interview them, recalling their role in the process in order to show that I had some circumstantial knowledge of the process at stake.

Overall, I did not encounter major problems of access to the most important actors of the process, although it is indubitable that the fieldwork in Ireland was the easiest: the reforms studied were still largely ‘in progress’ and high on the agenda, and there has been far greater involvement from civil society than in the Italian or French cases. In the three countries, the experts, as they were almost all linked to academia, were particularly helpful and easy to talk with. In all three cases I managed to meet some or most of the experts who were closely, intensively, and directly associated with the processes of reform studied. I contacted them first, in order to get a point of access to the field, and to use their advice and contacts to gain access to the political actors. Regarding the politicians, I chose not to focus most of my efforts on trying to meet the party leaders or the heads of the executive in charge at the time, given the limited amount of time at my disposal. Rather, I privileged meetings with those who were specialists of the institutional matters in their party, and who (p.300) were actively involved in building the political alternatives that were examined by the parliament, and the policy advisers working in the cabinets and in charge of the concrete aspects of the elaboration of the reform. I usually proceeded in the following way: contacting, first, the individuals who were easier to access (the academics), in order to use their knowledge of the processes to gain access to other people, most notably politicians and political advisers. In some cases, I had to go through a number of steps before managing to obtain the interview, including information about my credentials or the list of people I had interviewed in the past. On only one occasion, for a French interview, did I have to communicate the list of questions in advance. I asked the interviewees systematically if they allowed me to record the interview, to quote them and if they allowed their names to appear in the research. Only two public servants in office asked me not to mention their name, and on only one occasion did the interviewee refuse to be recorded.

To conclude, the interview process was very smooth, and I did not encounter many of the difficulties usually associated with elite interviews, which some have called a ‘minefield’ (Lilleker 2003). I attribute this to several factors. First, institutional reforms are typically technical and not highly contentious issues. Despite the fact that some of the reforms studied were divisive, institutional reforms tend to be dealt with by a limited number of specialists, who on many occasions have specialized knowledge in public law and/or political science. This undoubtedly facilitated the interviews a great deal. Second, both the experience of my Master’s dissertation and that of this thesis have opened my eyes to a paradox: it may actually be easier to interview elites in a foreign country. Indeed, both in Ireland and in Italy, my status as a French student in a European University was a help rather than a hindrance: my interviewees adopted a much more educational attitude than the French interviewees, and revealed the dynamics of the process more freely than they would have done with a ‘domestic’ interviewer. On several occasions, I discussed some of the findings of the interviews with Irish or Italian students, and several of them noted the freedom of tone that some of the quotes indicated. I believe that this largely counter-balanced the ‘insider’ knowledge I benefited from when conducting the French interviews. These conclusions are relatively similar to those of Herod, who shows that being a foreign researcher can operate as an ‘ice-breaker’ (1999, 325). National factors also certainly came into play, facilitating or complicating the interviews: Ireland’s small size and its tradition of informal and localist political elites making them more accessible in comparison, for example, to the centralized and hierarchized processes of policy-making in France.

(p.301) 3. List of the Interviews Conducted

This presentation is ordered in the following way: name; function held during the sequence of reforms considered (for politicians and councillors); current function (for experts); other relevant functions (when applicable); party (when applicable); date of the interview; location of the interview; city in which the interview was held.

3.1. List of Interviews Conducted in May 2012 on the Agenda of Political Reforms (Ireland)

  1. 1. Anon. political adviser in the department of the Taoiseach, FG, 30 May 2012, at his office in Dublin.

  2. 2. Elaine Byrne, journalist and research fellow at University of New South Wales Sydney, co-author of politicalreform.ie, on the academic team of We the Citizens, 10 May 2012, at a café in Dublin.

  3. 3. John Coakley, Professor of Political Science at University College Dublin, 1 June 2012, at his office in Dublin.

  4. 4. Eoin Daly, lecturer in the School of Law at University College Dublin, 9 May 2012, at a café in Dublin.

  5. 5. Noel Dempsey, ex-Teachta Dála (TD) for Meath and Meath West between 1987 to 2011, ex-minister (1997–2011), FF, 30 May 2012, at a café in Dublin.

  6. 6. Jimmy Devins, ex-Teachta Dála (TD) for Sligo-Leitrim between 2002 and 2011, ex-local councillor in Sligo County Council between 1991 and 2002, ex-minister, FF, 18 May 2012, at his office in Sligo.

  7. 7. David Farrell, Professor of Political Science at University College Dublin, co-author of politicalreform.ie, on the academic team of We the Citizens, the Constitutional Convention and reformcard.com, 8 May 2012, at his office in Dublin.

  8. 8. Niamh Hardiman, Professor of Political Science at University College Dublin, 22 May 2012, at a restaurant in Dublin.

  9. 9. Clodagh Harris, Professor of Political Science at University College Cork, on the academic team of We the Citizens and reformcard.com, 21 May 2012, by Skype.

  10. 10. Gerard Hogan, High Court Judge, ex-lawyer and professor of constitutional law at Trinity College Dublin, 29 May 2012 and 31 May 2012, at his office in Dublin.

  11. 11. Pat Leahy, journalist for the Sunday Independent, 15 May 2012, at a café in Dublin.

  12. 12. Michael Marsch, Professor of Political Science at Trinity College Dublin, 15 May 2012, at his office in Dublin.

  13. (p.302) 13. Fiach Conghail Mac, senator from 2011 to 2016, director of the Abbey Theatre and Chairman of ‘We the Citizens’, Independent, 29 May 2012, at his office in Dublin.

  14. 14. Eoghan Murphy, Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South-East from 2011 to 2016, ex-Dublin city councillor from 2009 to 2011, FG, 24 May 2012, Leinster House, Dublin.

  15. 15. Mary P. Murphy, Professor of Sociology at NUI (National University of Ireland) Maynooth, member of TASC and Claiming our Future, 16 May 2012, at a café in Dublin.

  16. 16. Nat O’Connor, director of the think-tank TASC, 4 May 2012, at his office in Dublin.

  17. 17. Susan O’Keeffe, senator from 2011 to 2016, ex-journalist, Labour, 24 May 2012, Leinster House, Dublin.

  18. 18. Mary O’Rourke, ex-Teachta Dála (TD) for Longford Westmeath and Westmeath (1981–1997, 2007–2011), ex-senator (1997–2007), ex-president of the Seanad (2002–2007), ex-minister (1989–1994, 1997–2002), FF, 23 May 2012, at her home in Athlone.

  19. 19. Averil Power, senator from 2011 to 2016, ex-political adviser of Mary Hanafin in the Department of Tourism, Family affairs and education, ex-spokesperson on political reform in the 2011 election, FF, 29 May 2012, Leinster House, Dublin.

  20. 20. Matt Wall, postdoctoral researcher in the department of political science of the Free University, Amsterdam, 2 May 2012, by Skype.

  21. 21. Noel Whelan, lawyer, columnist with the Irish Times and other media, ex-political adviser and FF politician, 14 May 2012, at a café in Dublin.

  22. 22. Alex White, Teachta Dála (TD) for Dublin South from 2011 to 2016, senator from 2007 to 2011, Labour, 24 May 2012, Leinster House, Dublin.

3.2. List of Interviews Conducted between February 2013 and April 2013 on the Quinquennat and the Reordering of the Electoral Calendar (France)

  1. 1. Pierre Avril, constitutional lawyer, ex-Professor of public law at Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris, 6 February 2013, in his home in Paris.

  2. 2. Philippe Bas, former deputy general secretary of the Presidency of the Republic between 2000 and 2002, 19 February 2013, at his office in Paris.

  3. 3. Pierre Bourdon, constitutional and administrative lawyer, ATER at University Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne, 25 February 2013, at a café in Paris.

  4. 4. Guy Carcassonne†, constitutional lawyer, professor at University Paris-X Nanterre, 4 February 2013, at his office in Paris.

  5. 5. Yves Colmou, former director of cabinet of the minister in charge of the relations with parliament, and adviser to the minister of Home Affairs between 1997 and 2002, 11 March 2013, at his office in Paris.

  6. (p.303) 6. Olivier Dutheillet de Lamothe, former deputy general secretary of the Presidency of the Republic between 1997 and 2000, 20 March 2013, at his office in Paris.

  7. 7. Jean Gicquel, constitutional lawyer, emeritus professor of public law at University of Paris I Panthéon, Sorbonne, 15 February 2013, at his office in Paris.

  8. 8. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, MP of the Puy de Dôme (1956–73, 1984–2002), former president of the Republic between 1974 and 1981, 11 March 2013, at his home.

  9. 9. Pierre Guelman, former adviser to the prime minister for the relations with parliament, 1997–2002, 5 March 2013, at his office in Paris.

  10. 10. Daniel Ludet, former adviser for Justice in the cabinet of Lionel Jospin, 1 March 2013, at his office in Paris.

  11. 11. Pierre Mazeaud, member of the constitutional council between 1998 and 2004, former secretary of state in governments of Debré, Pompidou, and Messmer, ex-MP of Haute-Savoie between 1988 and 1998, former president of the constitutional council (2004–2007), RPR, 5 March 2013, at his home in Paris.

  12. 12. Didier Maus, constitutional lawyer and high civil servant, 20 February 2013, at his home.

  13. 13. Bernard Roman, MP of the Nord (1997–2016) and former president of the Commission des lois in the national Assembly (2000–2002), PS, 13 March 2013, at his office in Paris.

  14. 14. Yves Mény, political scientist and specialist of the institutions, ex-director of the European University Institute, 31 January 2013, at a café in Paris.

  15. 15. Dominque Paillé, former general delegate of the UDF, MP of the Deux-Sèvres between 1993 and 2007, 3 April 2013, at his office in Paris.

3.3. List of Interviews Conducted between June and July 2013 on the Constitutional Reforms and Electoral Reforms of 2005 (Italy)

  1. 1. Anon. Councillor of the Camera dei Deputati, 28 June 2013, at his office in Rome.

  2. 2. Giuseppe Calderisi, Councillor for the president of the Senate between 2001 and 2006, 4 July 2013, at his office in Rome.

  3. 3. Stefano Ceccanti, Professor of Comparative Public Law at University La Sapienza of Rome, senator of Piemonte between 2008 and 2013, PD, 26 June 2013, at a café in Rome.

  4. 4. Vannino Chiti, MP of Toscana between 2001 and 2008, minister of the relations with parliament between 2006 and 2008, senator of Toscana since 2008, DS, 3 July 2013, at his office in Rome.

  5. 5. Roberto D’Alimonte, Professor of the Italian Political System at University LUISS Guido Carli of Rome, 13 June 2013, at his office in Florence.

  6. (p.304) 6. Francesco D’Onofrio, senator of Lazio (1983–1987, 1996–2008) and president of the parliamentary group from 2001 to 2006, ex-MP of Lazio between 1990 and 1996, UDC, 25 June 2013, at his home in Rome.

  7. 7. Domenico Fisichella, senator of Lazio between 1994 and 2005, independent senator between 2005 and 2006, vice-president of the Senate from 2001 to 2006, AN, 3 July 2013, at his home in Rome.

  8. 8. Carlo Fusaro, Professor in the Department of Legal Sciences at Università degli Studi of Florence, 10 June 2013, at his office in Florence.

  9. 9. Alessandro Maran, MP of Gorizia between 2001 and 2006 and member of the Commission Affari Costituzionali I between 2001 and 2006, MP of Friuli-Venezia Giulia between 2006 and 2013, senator of Friuli-Venezia Giulia since 2013, DS, 25 June 2013, in a restaurant, Rome.

  10. 10. Domenico Nania, senator of Sicilia and president of the AN parliamentary group in the Senate from 2001 to 2006, MP of Sicilia between 1987 and 2001, AN, 26 June 2013, in the Senate, Rome.

  11. 11. Andrea Pastore, senator of Abruzzo between 1996 and 2013 and president of the Commission Affari Costituzionali I between 2001 and 2006, FI, 19 June 2013, at his office in Pescara.

  12. 12. Giovanni Tarli Barbieri, Professor of Constitutional Law at Università degli Studi of Florence, 17 June 2013, at his office in Florence.

  13. 13. Giorgio Tonini, senator of Marche between 2001 and 2013, senator of Trento since 2013, DS, 4 July 2013, at his office in Rome.

  14. 14. Salvatore Vassallo, Professor of Political Science and Comparative Politics at the University of Bologna, former MP of Emilia-Romagna between 2008 and 2013, PD, 11 June 2013, at his office in Bologna.