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Tu Parlamento: Italy Launches Platform to Give Citizens a Digital Seat in Parliament

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, June 27 2013

The platform aims to get citizens more involved in policy making (image: tuparlamento.it)

Last week, without much fanfare or publicity, 15 members of the Italian Parliament launched Tu Parlamento, a Liquid Feedback platform that allows Italian citizens to comment on proposed bills. it is an initiative led by Laura Puppato, a senator of the Democratic Party.

The platform is simple in its concept: it allows citizens to propose and even vote on policies, as well as monitor legislation submitted by Parliament. How it will work on the ground, may prove challenging. Puppato already cautioned that the platform is neither an online referendum nor an experiment in direct democracy.

“There cannot be a Parliament of 60 million people,” she said. Rather, the platform allows for delegates to better represent their constituencies and to gain a direct understanding of public opinion and needs.

Many consider this new platform a blow to comedian-cum-politician Beppe Grillo who had promised for months to launch a Liquid Feedback platform of his own. Grillo is the face of the Five Star Movement, which gained popularity and success with its anti-establishment message. Divisions within the party, as well as Grillo’s unapologetic and often caustic personality led to the movement’s decline in popularity.

Grillo aims to launch a local platform called "Electronic Parliament" in the provinces of Lazio and Lombardia, which hold Rome and Milan, respectively. However, this platform will only be open to members of the Five Star Movement in those regions. David Barillari, the regional councilor of the Five Star Movement's Lazio branch, has already spoken out against Tu Parlamento, exclaiming, "The first version of our own platform will show that we are light years ahead of the use of Liquid Feedback as the Democratic Party is using it, or as we used it during the electoral campaign."

In an interview with the non-profit Agora Digitale, Puppato explained that she initially wanted the platform to create a bridge with the Five Star Movement. “I thought it could be a way to break down some barriers between the two parties and create a common basis for a theme so dear to the Five Star Movement,” she explained. However, she found herself unable to reconcile with them, and went ahead on her own with the support of 14 other Parliament members from the center-left.

The platform has so far seen some “frightening” success, according to Puppato. Within the first four days of launch, it saw the creation of 1,344 profiles, 85 proposals and 147 suggestions to existing proposals.

Editor's Note: Original quotes in Italian were translated by Antonella Napolitano.

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