The fight for new democratic forms

foot-stamp

A lot of people await the breakthrough of online democracy. In the municipality Vallentuna in the Northern greater Stockholm area, the traditional party system is challenged by Demoex.

Demoex is known as the world’s first direct democratic Internet party. Since 2002, Demoex has held a seat in the local parliament. It has arranged over 800 votes on political issues and passed on 44 citizen’s petitions to the municipality council.

Demoex has tried, but failed, to create a platform for joint public political debate on the web. The elected representatives from the traditional parties have refused to participate in this democratic experiment. Instead they have marginalised Demoex through out the eight years.

The greatest obstacle is the party system’s hierarchical structure. Hierarchies in politics mean that power is concentrated on only a handful of people. None of them benefit from sacrificing party interests for the benefit of a greater good.

Competition between ideas is important in politics, but the hierarchical system harms competition between ideas by blocking free flow of information in order to protect the party’s mandate. Two recent examples:

September 6th 2010: Demoex submitted an interpellation to implement a democracy experiment that streaches across party lines. The majority of the City Council even prohibited the interpellation from beeing put forward. Further, Demoex inquired whether the municipality would be willing to publish politicians’ blogs on the municipality’s website before the election. The mayor then claimed, that he could not possibly answer the question due to lack of information, although he had three months to investigate.

September 13th 2010: Remuneration Committee proposes a dramatic increase of fees for the up-coming term. The municipality council’s board did not mention the issue beforehand on the agenda. The board decided that the chairmen of municipality boards together with the opposition party leader will have 65 percent increase of salaries. It seems like a deliberate strategy to keep voters unaware of the increase.

What Vallentuna faces is not the traditional clash of parties, but a struggle between  democratic systems. Unlike many e-gov initiatives, Demoex is a grass root movement. Our aim is to give concerned citizens the right to vote on local political issues and thereby increase the degree of democracy. It is urgent, we believe, to implement and evaluate a full-scale experiment in a relatively calm place. The less peaceful world cannot wait too long.

What is the least we can do to change our political system to reward cooperation instead of competition? It is important that the change is as small as possible, because it is extremely difficult to disrupt a stable hierarchy. According to the ‘Shock Doctrine’ theory once launched by Naomi Klein, real change can take place only when the political system is in a sway. Demoex wants to show that we do not have to wait for future disasters before we change our political climate and start to cooperate.

5 Responses to “The fight for new democratic forms”

  1. Thiago Ganzarolli Says:

    Hello Pernor,

    I couldn’t find a direct way of contact in Demoex website, so I am writing here. This message is addressed to Demoex.

    I am brazilian, 29 years old, software developer an social media enthusiast. A part of my family is involved in traditional politics, but as for myself, I’ve never been too much into it. What happens is that I came across the concept of liquid democracy some time ago, and even had a friend developing a
    voting and transparency web tool, which he abandoned. But the idea stayed with me, and last weekend, at brazilian version of Campus Party, I proposed during Ben Hammersley talk (from Wired UK) that we create some new kind of party in Brazil, much like DemoEx. His speech was an inspirational call for brazilians to go and ‘change the world’, as we emerge as a developed and
    young nation that is part of the BRIC. Ben asked me go onto stage and talk to a broad audience about the idea.
    Now I feel entitled to carry this to another level, regardless the monstrous bureaucracy required to create a party in my country. If anyone participating in your party wishes to exchange ideas or help me mature and
    make this concept a little more feasible by sharing knowledge, I would really appreciate it. Contact me through my email or through my twitter account: @tganzarolli

    The reality of Sweden is very different from ours, but I am sure there are many valuable experiences that we can learn from. For instance, in a more concrete way, I read on the website that you use a Drupal open source platform to manage the party interactions. So the question is: where can I find this code?

    As a final comment, the fact that the innitiative is so much older in Sweden and that it sort of failed, honestly, shows me that it will epicly fail in Brazil at first. But we gotta start somewhere, somehow, and at least direct people’s attention towards the alternatives. I am not getting demotivated, just getting
    real.

    Thanks!

    Thiago Ganzarolli

    PS: Actually as I was writing this, just came to my notice that Demoex had a brazilian social network registered in Ning, but I just checked it out and is inactive. Neverthless, I know some of the people listed in there, and I will go to them and ask for information as well.

  2. Paul Nollen Says:

    Hello Thiago,

    there is also a demoex network started in Brasil
    http://pt-br.facebook.com/pages/Demoex-Brasil/163096093708344

    We are trying to bring all the “Demoex” initiatives together.
    I started to group the initiatives on Participedia http://www.participedia.net/wiki/Direct_Democracy

    If you are intersted please contact me

    Paul.nollen@gmail.com

    and hello to Per 😉

    Paul

    member of Democracy International

  3. Gabriel Pezzini Says:

    In Brazil, monstrous bureaucracy, monstrous sginatures, monstrous money.

    Parties can be created only nationwide, no chance for little regional representation. Brazilian political system is too closed for new ideas – it’s conception is to make the old ones prevail for ever (or at least for very long). Without, of course, any kind of transparency.

    So making forward the idea of creating a pro-e-democracy party in Brazil is fight-for-life.

    Despite these great adversities, i’m pretty interested into supporting this kind of initiative in my country. And, as thing progresses, we see that this group is even bigger than what we previously thought of.

  4. Paul Nollen Says:

    Hi Gabriel ,

    here in Belgium referenda are not permitted by law, we only have a “consultation” on communal level with one of the highest level in the world for signatures (10% of citizens) for a “consultation”. But we do not intend to wait until we have legal permission to hold a referendum. That is the force of internet. If enough people take part in a free organised referendum even politicians will think twice to ignore it.
    WE are the people, WE decide

    Paul

  5. gabrielpezzini Says:

    Referenda do exist in Brazil, and in fact they happened at least twice at a national level. First in early 90’s, to decide the government model (wether to choose for presidentialism, republican parliamentarism and – yes – constitutional monarchy), and another later, to decide on the ban on personal weapons.

    However, they are really rare.

    I think that making non-institutionalized referenda over the internet is a good way to begin, but there must be a time at which online democracy attains official status.

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