Thesis subject

Assessing how effective the Dutch water board elections are in establishing a well working accountability mechanism between Dutch citizens and their water boards

The Dutch Water Board Elections (waterschapsverkiezingen) have been organized in its current form since 2008 using a party list system in each water board district. The aim of those elections is to establish a democratic accountability mechanism between citizens and the water boards. However, there are several reasons to doubt that such a mechanism effectively exists. Electoral turnout is low, citizen knowledge of the participating parties is limited, and policy decisions within the water boards are often non-political: e.g. widely shared by most members of water board counsels (de-politicized decisions).

This study fits in the larger “Enhancing Trust in Governments for effective water governance” (EnTruGo) project on which the supervisors currently work. The central aim of this project is to explore how public- and stakeholder trust in water governance processes can be enhanced in order to more effectively address

the rapidly increasing requirements on water governance to successfully adapt to urgent societal water needs.

https://www.wur.nl/en/project/EnTruGo-project.htm

Questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How are those elections supposed to lead to democratic accountability and how can they enhance citizen trust in water governance?
  • How is the supposed role of those elections communicated?
  • What are the actual effects of electoral participation on trust in water managers?
  • What are the determinants of citizen participation in those elections?
  • What is the role of knowledge and communication?
  • How do water managers react to the elections?
  • To what extent do citizen preferences truly affect the choices that water managers make in their work?

Type of research activities

New and original survey data is available which requires some quantitative data analysis skills. Additionally, qualitative methods and document analyses may be used.

Type of student

This topic is open to students with an interest in communication, political science and environmental governance (e.g. water, climate). For instance, MCH, MDR, MDI etc.