Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Republic of Macedonia and Citizen Participation in the Digital Age: Where Do We Stand?

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Republic of Macedonia and Citizen Participation in the Digital Age: Where Do We Stand?

Article excerpt

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1. Introduction

"It took just 40 years for the first 50 million people to own a radio; just 16 years for the first 50 million people to own a PC; but just 5 years for the first 50 million to be on the Internet." Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the Government Leaders Forum Europe, at the Scottish Parliament, 31 January 2007

We are living in the age of Internet and digital technologies that have already penetrated into all the aspects of our day-to-day life. They have changed the way of dissemination of the information and the way of our communication thus affecting many processes in the society including the democratic one. Therefore, today we are talking about e-democracy, e-government, e-parliament, e-campaign.

As stated in Recommendation on e-democracy, adopted by the Council of Europe (CoE Recommendations in text) in February 2009, e-democracy is the support and enhancement of democracy, democratic institutions and democratic processes by means of technology. E-democracy concerns all sectors of democracy, all democratic institutions, and all levels of government. E-democracy cannot be isolated from traditional democratic processes. It is additional, complementary to, and interlinked with traditional democratic processes, so as to widen the choices available to the public for taking part in political processes.

If according to Webster Dictionary, democracy is defined as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation, then e-democracy is nothing more than the use of digital tools in order to enhance the tree pillars that underpin democracy, such as: transparency, accountability and participation (citizen engagement in democratic process).

E-democracy is not only about technology (and involves both so-called e-participation and evoting) but also impacts every aspect of an organization involved. In addition, it captures the behavior of members of society (citizens, lobbies and opinion leaders), the media (media, agencies and market researchers) when interacting with, and attitudes towards, government agencies and representatives (Mahrer and Krimmer, 2005).

E-democracy can also be considered as a set of tools i.e. applications by means of which the goals of democracy can be achieved, in other words to improve the connectivity (information-communication) between government, stakeholders and citizens, raising engagement and participation in democratic processes. Some of the most commonly used e-democracy tools are the following: e-discussion, econsultation, e-initiative, e-petition, e-polls, e-voting, webcast, etc. Different e-democracy tools provide different levels of citizen involvement. According to Handbook on e-democracy, levels of involvement can be categorized as: information (informative public participation)1, consultation (consultative public participation)2 and cooperation (cooperative public participation)3.

E-democracy is closely linked to good governance, which is the efficient, effective, participatory, transparent and accountable democratic exercise of power in electronic form, and includes informal politics and non-governmental players (CoE).

According to Steven Clift (n.d.), to many peoples, e-democracy suggests greater and more active citizen participation enabled by the Internet, mobile communications, and other technologies in today's representative democracy as well as through more participatory or direct forms of citizen involvement in addressing public challenges.

E-democracy is anything that governments do to facilitate greater participation in government using digital or electronic means. These initiatives can include e-forums, e-town hall meetings, e-consultations, ereferenda, e-voting, e-rule making, and other forms of e-participation. We can also term it as any form of 'digital engagement' (Coleman and Norris, 2005). …

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