The advantages of direct democracy to citizens’ every day life
“A democratic society takes advantage- sooner or later- of all of its resources and this leads inevitably to prosperity. Citizens who participate in public life are happier and more willing to respect the law because they are given the opportunity to participate in that or to cancel it. Aristotle was right saying, that man is a political animal: no one can be complete and happy if he/she is deprived from deciding for his/her future”, considers Petros who has visited Switzerland and witnessed the “effects” of the pure democracy.
From which countries may Greece being inspired regarding direct democracy?
Italy, Ireland, Germany (unfortunately not in federal level), Denmark, Finland, Bulgaria and Rumania have institutions that guarantee the conduction of referendums based on citizens’ initiative. Switzerland thought, where the whole of political life revolves around the referendum, is the only country that can be qualified as democratic. A Swiss citizen may decide three or four times per year on a variety of topics related to the municipality, the Canton or even the federation. An active citizen votes during his/her life for 1.500 topics.
With a minimal central government, the municipalities and cantons enjoy a large degree of independence. Each canton has its own constitution and government, while about 80% of the more than 2000 municipalities governed directly by citizens through popular assemblies. It’s a dangerous generalization to connect Switcherland’s wealth with its democratic political system because the country was not traditionally rich until the 20th century, while the public consultation in some cantons dates back to the 12th century. From the Swiss experience we can all learn that representative democracy can do much better.
Technology and Democracy
Undoubtedly, technology and its new tools may facilitate the societies’ democratisation. Internet helps people being informed and share ideas faster and globally without cost. The new tools may ensure viability and allow citizens to control decision making process and legislation.
Today in Greece there is a wealth of data generated by the public consultation of the draft legislation. This type of consultation allows citizens to express opinions, suggestions, arguments and disagreements related to the ongoing legislation. However, the current consultation system does not allow citizens a meaningful and productive participation that will increase the impact of their activities.
The IT company SciFY is about to launch DemocracIT, an application aspiring at enabling citizens to participate in the Public Consultation, even after the end of, by using avant-garde technologies in order to export summaries of the comments of the consultation.
We discussed with Elina, communications officer, the main aspirations of DemocracIT. “DemocracIT aims at organising the unstructured information, assisting the work of legislature and facilitating the monitoring of the legislative process” she put a light on what this new idea is about estimating that “along with highlighting the gaps of public consultation, it will encourage citizens’ participation in it. As a result, a more direct democracy and human rights’ protection will be promoted and social cohesion will be strengthened.
The DemocracIT is addressed to policy makers, “controllers” (such us journalists and opposition) and to citizens who want to promote transparency in public life.
From 2010, government decisions are published on the central website Diavgeia. Opengov.gr has been designed to serve the principles of transparency and collaboration. These two initiatives could only be judged positively. Their complexity though discourages citizens from searching, leading fatally to the dangerous road of no traceability.
Pure democracy: Free of risks?
Another question is whether direct democracy bears risks. Are we confident to our co-citizens vote, given the fact that some of them perpetuated a corrupt political system or voted for a neo-nazi party? Petros, has though full confidence because citizens will vote more soberly when they will realize that they decide and they cannot put the blame on politicians. “We should in addition try not confusing the party we vote in elections with the decision we vote for in a referendum” he emphasised.
“Democracy is a way not only to decide. It is a way of living”, concludes Petros our discussion on direct democracy. Bearing that in mind, it would be interesting to think if there will be any progress with regards to direct democracy in Greece, where successive elections over the last years have made abundantly clear that what the people want is a government made up of multiple parties with broad public support and a unified voice in Parliament.
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