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…


Friday, September 5, 2008

NEPAL: An Optimistic Perspective Towards Participatory Democracy

Election of new Nepali PM
Let the new dawn turn into a bright day

THE election of new Nepali prime minister augurs well for Nepal in more ways than one. Firstly, it has ended a long political deadlock following the general election which gave the Maoists a clear majority. Secondly, it will, one hopes, prepare the way for a multi-party democratic order in a republican Nepal. Perhaps most important is the election of a rebel leader as the prime minister and the way an insurgent group has got the opportunity of integrating within the body-politics of Nepal, after ten years of violence and disturbance. This reflects a new found maturity in Nepal's polity.The positive aspect of the political development is that the Himalayan Kingdom can look forward to the completion of transition from blood stained politics of the last ten years to participatory democracy. What causes concern though is the time that was taken to overcome inter-party and intra-party differences before the election of the prime minister could be held. If the main agenda of the new administration is economic and social transformation, that must be carried out without engendering apprehensions in the minds of the other political parties of autocratic behaviour, a concern that is reflected in the comments expressed by Debua that the opposition will keep a watchful eye for any transgression of democratic behaviour on the part of the new government. Any totalitarian bent will only hamper the run of democracy. One understands the inherent difficulty in embarking on a path that is totally new to what the country was moving on. The traditional monarchy of the last two hundred fifty years would have given rise to a mindset of particular order that the old guard would need to cast off. By the same token, the Maoists would also have to discard the intimidatory nature that their deportment have acquired due to the way they operated before giving up violence and returning to the conventional political path. Even though the new prime minister might retain his nom-de-plume of “Prachanda” or the 'fearsome one', his attitude must never be reflective of that characteristic. The 'new dawn', as the new Nepali leadership has termed the recent political development, must turn into a bright day.

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