“Reflections on the future of democracy in Europe”
Contributions to “The Future of Democracy in Europe” ConferenceProject on “Making democratic institutions work” 17-19 November 2004Barcelona©Council of Europe, September 2005
“e-DEMOCRACY. FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE”
By VASSILIS GOULANDRISaccess2democracy
Access2democracy is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) whichsprang out of the successful experiences of specific projects and whose mission isto promote the principles and practice of e-democracy in the global arena. We arevery fortunate to have the support of prominent thinkers such as Amartya Sen,Nicholas Negroponte, Lawrence Lessig, George Papandreou and others.I would like to say a few words about why e-democracy is for us a large conceptwhich goes beyond the confines of e-voting. Let us first have a look at what thesituation is today.
We can identify three major driving factors behind the necessity for e-democracyapplications today.First, abstention from the political process
has expanded dramatically during thelast decade throughout the world, to the extent that citizens are forsaking theirmost important democratic right: voting in national elections. The authors of theGreen Paper, The Future of Democracy in Europe – trends, analyses and reformsof the Council of Europe, project that the abstention rate in Western Europe willreach 65%
by 2020. The abstention rate is only one of many factsdemonstrating the existence of a “democratic deficit”, even in our “established” democracies, signifying that legitimacy and accountability are at stake. However,Stephen Coleman, visiting professor in e-democracy at the Oxford InternetInstitute, has said that abstention occurs because there is a lack of real choicesand not because there is a lack of access to the voting process.I believe that the bottom line is that citizens suffer from acute indifference,disengagement and possibly mistrust; there is a strong feeling of being “left-out” of the current political process among citizens today.
: in fact the Green Paper mentions 35%, still a high figure though.