Focusing on case studies of five different petitions systems, but also drawing on the Coalition government's new e-petitions system, this article identifies a number of characteristics of petitions systems. It argues that as a tool for participation they have the potential to act as a significant input to representative forms of democracy by providing a mechanism to enable the public to express their views to those in elected representative institutions. While there may be challenges associated with this, petitions systems may help underpin the legitimacy and functioning of representative institutions.

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