Which country has the fairest democracy

theme - Elections

Many saw this form of government and government on a worldwide triumphant advance. But in times of growing disagreement on issues such as climate change, economic inequality and migration, some get the impression that democratic states are no longer up to their tasks. Surveys show that trust in politics and the legitimacy of democratic decisions are declining - as is voter turnout.

A number of political thinkers, scholars and activists believe that democracy needs to be rethought in the 21st century. Basically, your suggestions can be divided into two categories:

Some argue that the majority decision by the British to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump can be traced back to the ignorance of the voters. Therefore, the solution is: less participation. A much discussed example of such a demand is the idea of ​​epistocracy currently being introduced by the philosopher Jason Brennan. Brennan demands that only voters with a minimum level of political education should be allowed to take part in democratic participation processes. Only in this way would the objectively "best" decisions be made and, as a result, politics would regain its legitimacy.

"We need a system update for democracy"

Quite different are some scientists who justify the loss of trust in exactly the opposite way: namely, with a lack of participation. They attribute this to the fact that the classic instruments such as elections, representation and party membership are no longer sufficient - and are therefore calling for new formats of democratic participation. Sophie Pornschlegel from the Progressive Center, for example, is calling for a “system update” for democracy. Supplementary instruments and thought patterns would have to be developed that “strengthen the values ​​of democracy and are up to the challenges of the 21st century: digitization, migration, a globalized world”.

We are introducing you to four different democratic innovations that, according to their initiators, could help to strengthen democracy in turbulent times.

Lot decides who rules

Historian David Van Reybrouck's suggestion that elections as a selection process for political representatives should largely be replaced by a lottery procedure sounds quite provocative. The result could be parliaments made up of one half of elected politicians and the other half of randomly drawn citizens. Proponents argue that such a campaign focus can be broken. Elections and party political engagement are also not the fairest means of appointing political representatives. Because through work or bringing up children, some people hardly get the chance to get comprehensive information or to contribute. In addition, the argument goes, many parties demanded that the candidates pay part of the campaign costs themselves. This means that not all sections of the population are represented equally in parliaments.

Political scientists Claus Leggewie and Patrizia Nanz also believe that politics needs a greater variety of perspectives - in order to regain the trust of the population and to make better decisions. The experiences of single parents, ALG II recipients and people with a migration background should also be included.

Van Reybrouck can cite some successful examples of citizen participation by lot. When there was no government for a long time after the Belgian election in 2010, a citizens 'initiative in which Van Reybrouck himself was involved convened a citizens' congress in this way. Flemings and Walloons from the two divided parts of the country discussed the three most important topics that had been determined through an online vote. Important political decisions have already been made in similar formats in Canada, the Netherlands, Iceland and Ireland.

The citizens decide about money

A frequent criticism of existing forms of democratic decision-making is also that they spend money on measures that are not really important to the citizens. According to surveys, they would like more money in the areas of education, family or digital infrastructure - so far only a relatively small proportion of public money has been invested in these. That is why there is a demand for participatory budgeting: citizens should decide for themselves and directly where money goes. This, so the proponents argue, would radically increase transparency in the allocation of taxpayers' money, and those affected could set priorities themselves. Especially for economically and socially disadvantaged groups of the population who are more dependent on government grants, this would significantly increase political participation.

The idea of ​​participatory budgeting was developed in 1989 by the Brazilian Workers' Party for Porto Alegres local politics - as a measure against corruption. Hundreds of projects were carried out in the Brazilian city to improve education and health care. Since the introduction of participatory budgeting, the city has been spending more money on the general public, while more and more money is being saved in administration. It is estimated that up to 2,700 municipalities worldwide used different forms of participatory budgeting in 2014.

Digital democracy

A much discussed proposal is the Liquid Democracy model, which radically questions the classic form of democratic representation. Instead of handing over the decisions on laws to party members until the next election, it provides for a “liquefaction” of democratic representation: With each vote, the citizens decide again whether they want to vote themselves or leave it to their representative. It should not only be voted more often, but citizens should also be able to write directly on the legal texts. In this way, the division into rulers and ruled as well as the separation between representative-democratic and direct-democratic decisions would be abolished. However, implementation is still a long way off: even in Estonia, where you can already vote online and many government services can be accessed digitally, liquid democracy has not yet been an issue.

The European Republic

Political scientist Ulrike Guérot criticizes the fact that it is not the European Parliament, which is elected by the citizens, that has the most power in the EU, but the European Council, in which the heads of government of the member states meet. The heads of government would primarily represent national interests - and less common European concerns. Guérot is therefore calling for the EU to be rebuilt into a European Republic, for the nation states to be replaced by a Europe of regions. This would break the supremacy of large nation states like Germany and France in favor of many almost equally large transnational regions.

Guérot's goal: The economic and monetary union is to be accompanied by a citizens' union in which all EU citizens can elect a common EU government. The EU citizens would then have to agree on their goals across national borders. In this way, a European public and a democratic “we-feeling” should emerge beyond national borders.

You can find out more about democracy at bpb.de.

Illustrations: Raúl Soria

This text was published under the license CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE. The photos may not be used.