16 mayo 2006

"Online Democracy"

I just saw a very interesting posting at Martín Varsavsky´s blog and I posted such a long response I consider it is worth publishing it here as well:


Hey Martín,

I specially liked the idea of parents exercising children’s vote. Also I would implement innovative voting channels. How? Internet, ATM, 1-800 (900 in Spain) for elderly people, etc. In Spain, thanks to the recently launched “electronic national identity card” it would be easier than in other countries.

Why is "online democracy" so important? It is not a matter of translating democracy into the virtual world: it is something else. Today ideologies are not that defining as they used to be. Having a "strong view” of the world that applies to almost every aspect of citizen's life is not on fashion because it actually does not solve problems. One may observe different parties with very similar polices or even right-wing parties who behave like left-wing (PP party in Madrid), and the other way around. Indeed what matters is the specific project a given candidate. Most of the people already perceive this fact.

What’s the problem then? Imaging a country where there are 10 relevant policies that matters to the citizenship. In an “old-fashioned democracy”, there are 2 options (well, maybe three), and 2 political parties. So everyone is more or less happy with the choice. However, in current democracies, the real set of possibilities is –let’s assume there are 2 alternatives per policy- 2 over 10, that is 1024 policies (that’s a “Mega-policy”, J) . Is there 1024 political parties? No.

Parties over time evolve to find sets of polices that please the electorate, of course. However, the process is slow and there is a very nasty, subtle, and pernicious political tactic underlying that process. When a party is doing well and have enough advantage, they usually change one of the policies that conforms its “political basket” into an alternative worse-off for the country (for whatever reason: corruption, wrong view, friends, not behaving like the opposite party, etc). The party in power knows that it is wrong but they do not care, they know the have “enough credit” to lose.

Let’s mention two examples of this behaviour:

-Spanish PP under Aznar’s presidency: Doing very well in economy and other areas, but they decided to go for Iraq’s war despite 90% of Spaniards were against it. Nobody could stop him to do it for 2 years, PP lost elections, but they could have won them as well because people had to average pros and cons.

-Spanish Socialist Party, now on power: Doing very well in minority rights, international policies and even the economy, but they decided to block Germany’s EON hostile takeover over Spanish Endesa (Note: both are two of the largest utilities in the world). I guess most people in Spain neither understand nor share the decision (specially taking into account the involvement of Catalonian regionalists in the Spanish government, and that the second best offer for Endesa is that of a Catalonian company with goods ties to the political establishment). Also, European Union is warning the Spanish government about that illegal practice, but the socialist party do not care, they have “enough credit”.

The most advanced societies in the world are those which can give their citizens voice and vote in non-electoral periods. Two great historical examples are the state of California and Switzerland, where people can sign acts and force the political class to behave in one or another way (California examples: destitution of governor Davis, approval of stem-cell research despite federal rules, etc.). Many countries in the world imitate those procedures, but indeed they do not work.

“Online Democracy” would be a huge boost of democracy. An American citizen voting if he/she wants to begin a war against Iraq in a Wal-Mart checkout till will have much more impact than international summits plenty of bilateral talks. I strongly believe it, and so I hope soon “online democracy” would be a social movement as bold as those that happened last century, and that reshaped our current lives for better.

Best regards


P.D.: My response is so long I have published it in my blog as well: http:/francisco.hernandezmarcos.net  

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Good idea and this has been discussed in Finland. As we have this national electronic card and bank id card solutions as out "national" id's as standard when using online services. Witj electronic voting you could "vote" more than once, but not as Al Capone style to vote as many times as possible, but if you first vote and before end of election change your mind, you could easily change your vote.

With electronic voting results are online and ready when voting is over, and it gives more channels for voters to participate on elections. Using ATM is also nice idea and at least I heard in Germany one company is offering ticket printing out of Bank ATM system.

If you have ideas to toss a round, drop me a line

For quite a long time I have been thinking about these sort of issues. Actually I registered the domain names www.peoplecracy.org / com / info /net .. thinking about setting up a non-profit internet forum to disscuss about new ways to foster democracy. It is one of my many permanent, pending proyects but I am sure at one point of time I will launch it and see if people join and we can lobby for a better democracy accross the world.

Do you think it would be a good idea? Please let me know.

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