The countries of the European Union are seen as democratic countries. But more than ever the sound for a bigger influence of citizens on government is noticeable. In Italy people hit the streets demanding their prime minister to stop creating laws that make him untouchable for the law, still a majority in parliament approved the laws made by the prime minister. In the Netherlands 84% of the citizens are against a new mission in Afghanistan and as if the voice of citizens doesn’t matter, a majority in parliament agreed with the new mission to Afghanistan.
The word democracy descends from the two Greek words: δῆμος (dèmos) “People” and κρατέω (krateo ) “to rule”. So a democracy is a country in where the citizens, the people, rule the country. So why aren’t the members of parliament (chosen by the citizens as their representative) listening to the people, as those countries claim to be a democracy. The most absurd aspect of this behavior is that the members of parliament often claim that they are representing the citizens but those citizens don’t have the knowledge to decide what is best for themselves nor their country. Simply said they claim the citizens of their country are a bunch of morons, who can’t make correct decisions and who need to be leaded like little children.
A more democratic way of ruling a nation can be found in Switzerland. In Switzerland the citizens are given the right to vote on all issues, which normally are only discussed in parliament. This can range from international affairs like contributing to the war in Iraq, to immigration laws and improving infrastructure of Switzerland. An example is the referendum held in 1992 on the Swiss accession to the European Union, it was rejected. Untill now Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.
The form of government used in Switzerland is called direct democracy. With this form of government the citizens get the following instruments:
· The right to petition -- A small number of collected signatures can force the elected parliament on a particular topic to discuss on a particular topic and vote on it.
· Binding referendum on people’s initiative -- This is a referendum in which the signature threshold is higher than the right of petition, and where the voters can adopt or reject the citizens proposal, or bill of parliament. The result is binding.
· Legally binding referendum -- This is the so-called plebiscite, the government or a sufficient number of MPs can propose a proposal to the voters. In Switzerland, a plebiscite is not allowed.
· Deposition Procedure – Also called called recalls. An authority figure can be deposited when a majority of voters want that.
· National Assembly -- This is the original form of direct democracy as it emerged in classical Athens: theekklesia, in many communities and two cantons in Switzerland National Assemblies are still held.
· Online democracy – Parties communicate with their supporter through internet which could lead to a vote.
It’s time to follow the Swiss or not. In many European countries there are parties trying to make the democracy of their county a bit more democratic. Somehow those parties are not winning enough votes to make a change and let alone make their country a direct democracy. Let’s hope that the countries claiming to be a democracy will turn in to a real direct democracy, where it citizens have the power and not some elite.