We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bulgaria: New Green Party Advocates Direct Democracy

Bulgaria sees the creation of a new green party which among other things supports expansion of direct democracy within the country. Read the following article to learn more about the party and it's platform. - Editor

Bulgarian Greens Established

The newest green political party Zelenite (Bulgarian Greens) was established on May 18 in Sofia by a number of environmental non-government organisations (NGOs).

Among the party's founders are members of To Sustain the Nature in Bulgaria coalition; Balkani Wildlife Society (BWS); UNECO University Club for Environment; Green Policy Institute (GPI); Centre for Environmental Information and Education; Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation; Cooperation for Voluntary Service Bulgaria (CVS);; Borrowed Nature; association Za Zemiata (For the Earth); organisers and volunteers of the national campaigns for salvation of Irakli Black sea beach, Strandja nature park, Rila and Pirin national parks. NGOs are not allowed by law to establish political parties.

Hristo Genev, a psychologist and has political experience in the past in the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, was elected general secretary of the party. The three co-chairpersons are Andrey Kovachev from BWS, Petko Kovachev from GPI (no relation) and Denitsa Petrova, also from GPI . Zelenite’s treasurer is Julia Yordanova from CVS.

The non-governmental organisations’ members decided to form a political party despite their unwillingness to take part in the political life of Bulgaria, as, according to them, during the years of work in the non-governmental sector they could achieve only small changes in the way the state treats the environmental problems and small amendments to some laws on biodiversity and nature preservation. However, even being members of various working groups on environmental problems within the Ministry of Environment and Water Affairs and other institutions, the non-governmental organisations representatives had no right of vote and decision-making within those bodies.

By establishing Zelenite, they hoped to get into the political life and to achieve substantial changes by stimulating the civil society and opening equal possibilities for citizens' participation in the decision-making processes, working towards expanding the direct democracy, do changes within the legislative system, and working for achieving sustainability in different societies and regions, participants said.

Zelenite is not the first political party to adopt the 'green' rhetoric. One of them is Zelenata Partia (Green Party), which is the oldest and has existed since the communistic regime fell down in 1989. However, according to Zelenite members, this party is not functioning or if it does, it is not doing it on the most environmental way.

The other green party formed recently in Bulgaria is Zelena Bulgaria (Green Bulgaria), which reportedly is established by businesses trying to gain key positions in Bulgarian regions that are attractive for tourism and other investments. This argument is backed by the fact that the party appears to have extensive financing to campaign during elections, a trait that has never been typical for other local environmental movements.

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