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 1, 2008

Switzerland: Immigration Referendum Update - The People Have Spoken

Swiss Reject New Citizenship Rule

Critics said the posters for tougher rules had racist undertones.

Voters in Switzerland have rejected a move to make it even harder for foreigners to obtain citizenship.

In a referendum, they voted 64% against a bid to revive the practice of approving citizenship candidates by secret ballot and scrapping appeals.

Secret ballots were outlawed five years ago by the supreme court, which judged them to be discriminatory.

Switzerland has one of Europe's highest numbers of foreign-born residents - more than 20%.

Many Swiss said not allowing voters to have the final say on who became a citizen violated the country's system of direct democracy, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports from Berne.

However, opponents of Sunday's poll, which was called by the nationalist Swiss People's Party, suspect the real agenda behind it was not Swiss democracy, but how best to keep certain groups out of Switzerland, our correspondent adds.

Twelve years of residence

Initial reporting of the poll results showed that the measure to raise the threshold for citizenship was soundly defeated, gaining approval in only one of Switzerland's 26 cantons (states).

Swiss laws on naturalisation are already tough.

Candidates for citizenship must live in Switzerland for at least 12 years, they have to pass tests in one of the official languages of the country, and culture, and those born in Switzerland have no automatic right to citizenship.

The final hurdle is approval by the local community at a town meeting.

The supreme court outlawed secret ballots five years ago after it became clear that some towns were regularly rejecting candidates from the Balkans, Turkey and Africa, while approving those from Western Europe.

It also gave those rejected the right to appeal.

The Swiss People's Party, the largest in parliament, wants the secret ballots back and the right to appeal removed.

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