After its unexpectedly poor showing at the 2015 UK election, the Labour Party has elected a new leader. Initially proposed by a fellow member of parliament who didn’t support his policies, Jeremy Corbyn was meant to be the 'left-leaning' candidate who would act as an also-ran and satisfy party members who felt the Labour Party was losing its way politically. However, new voting rules opened the election up to party members and the underdog was elected.
The new leader was not shy of stating his intention to shake up some UK parliamentary practice, not least the spectacle that is Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) – an adversarial and noisome experience which many people believe puts people off politics altogether.
So, Corbyn announced he wanted to harvest questions from the public, which he would then put directly to the Prime Minister. Over 33,000 people submitted questions ranging from the profound and challenging to the downright stupid. Crowdsourced democracy in action.
Finland's Citizen's Initiative
But these are just baby steps. In 2012, Finland began to experiment with an initiative that allowed voters to come up with new laws. If they obtained 50,000 supporters, then the Finnish government would be obliged to vote on the ideas. Initiatives that have gone through the process by achieving 50,000 supporters include same-sex marriage and copyright reform.
D-CENT is a project developing digital tools for direct democracy. Pilot projects are being held in Spain, Iceland and Finland. In Spain, the 15M citizen movement brought together ad hoc coalitions of citizens who can challenge government decisions. The movement developed into a network of democratic cities. And a whole new political party – Podemo – has emerged.
From small crowds in Spain to corruption in China
A small Spanish town, with just 3,500 citizens, has joined forces with its mayor to use Twitter to contact government about everything that concerns them locally. Accountability and effectiveness of local services has improved. In China citizens have been using Baidu to counter propaganda or to expose corruption.
Add your voice to the sound of the crowd
Apologies for gratuitous Human League reference!
Additional sources: The Next Web; Further reading: Better than a Ballot Box: could digital democracy win your vote? The New Scientist (subscription required).