Is citizen participation still missing from democratic politics today?
There is a widespread debate about whether the participation of citizens in the democratic politics is enough these days? From the widespread bantering of the Obama Care, it seems that despite advances in information technology, citizens were still not actively participating in the decisions the government made for the Affordable Care Act. From the time their representatives win elections, citizens follow them on media to know how they deal with various issues.
The freedom to vote on the Scottish Referendum is a right that has been conferred on the Scottish citizens by the British democracy but the reasons why the Scottish want independence are glaring. There is a growing disillusionment with the democratically elected government of Britain. Low citizen participation in the democratic process in seen strikingly in low voter turnouts in elections in some democracies. If citizens feel underrepresented, uncared for and unloved, they refuse to participate in the democratic decision making process.
France, a traditional democracy, ranks a modest 25 on the Democracy Index of the recently published Economists Intelligence unit. This is surprising to many because France has high voter turnouts, high women representation in parliament but trust in the French government is lacking.
This brings us to the important question of what citizens expect from their governments when they elect them to power? Citizens expect real power sharing and are willing to provide studied opinions with a propulsion to make tough choices, but how many governments are willing to meet them half way? Governments recovering from financial stinginess and lay backs have their work cut out before them in trust building.
On the one hand citizen participation has never been more than what is seen now in some countries but on the other, their involvement in things that should matter to them is minimal. To build up the trust of citizens, governments need to explain, right at the outset, what is expected from them. Information should be shared in a timely and appropriate manner. The whole democratic process should be accountable, legitimate and for all accounts deliberate. The gap between the citizens and the government should be minimal in order for citizens to participate maximally in its functioning .The need of the hour is for citizens to not forego their right to influence decisions and for democratic governments to work with them in building stronger, involved and living democracies.