ECMI Publications Database
One of the dilemmas posed by descriptive representation is whether it might generate an excessive focus on who the representative is, rather than on what s/he does, thus foregoing the importance of substantive representation. As such, various scholars have argued that descriptive representation needs an accountability mechanism to ensure that the representative does indeed pursue the interests of the minority group s/he represents. In this respect, most academic analyses agree that elections represent the most important mechanism of accountability. By making use of evidence from Romania, I argue that elections are a necessary but not sufficient condition for accountability, and that further mechanisms are needed to ensure the adequate representation of the interests of national minorities. The argument applies in particular to small, geographically dispersed minorities, which - as shown by evidence from Romania - face the highest challenges in holding to account their representatives. To do so, I first unravel the concept of political accountability as defined in the academic literature, then assess the accountability mechanisms (or lack thereof) embedded in the arrangements for descriptive representation of national minorities in Romaniam, and finally discuss their practical consequences for the representation of these groups. I conclude that due to ineffective vertical and horizontal accountability mechanisms, political representation of small national minorities in Romania remains 'captured' by a closed circle of political elites, so that presently it is extremely difficult for their constituencies to remove them from leadership should they so desire.