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The Five Star Movement Launches an Electronic Parliament

BY Rebecca Chao | Friday, July 12 2013

A screenshot of the electronic parliament platform (image: http://www.parlamento5stelle.com/)

On July 10, the Five Star Movement (M5S) introduced its long awaited "electronic parliament" platform, Five Star Parliament, which allows citizens to vote, comment and even write pieces of legislation. M5S is an anti-government political party led by former comedian Beppe Grillo. They put out the site just weeks after 15 members of the Italian parliament had launched their own, Tu Parlamento. Five Star Parliament is currently available only to those living in Lazio but will soon launch in Lombardy and Sicily, then nationally.

The site differentiates itself from Tu Parlamento by allowing citizens not only to comment and vote on laws but to also help in writing it. To prevent from cyber attacks, the site requires an authentication process using special electronic tokens costing three euros, which the site is offering to hand out for free to the first 1,000 registrants. Davide Barillari, the Regional Councilor for the Five Star Movement in Lazio explained to Il Fatto the differences between its electronic parliament and Tu Parlamento:

Tu Parlamento cost 15,000 euro and it stops where we started. Our cost is zero. It is the result of the work of 20 volunteers who have given life to the platform a little bit at a time. And then Tu Parlamento is an advisory project only, where at the end of the discussion, the proposal may not even be considered. For us the movement is different: what is voted on in electronic parliament is binding.

Over the last few months, 500 users were invited to test an alpha version of the Five Star Parliament. They looked at 400 policy initiatives, which were then ranked by the M5S and used for campaigns in the recent regional elections in Lazio.

The site works by allowing citizens to vote for proposed laws. When a bill is first introduced to the site, it needs to gain a critical number of supporters in order to push it into the discussion phase where amendments can then be voted for adoption. Three expert commissions will be established to evaluate the bill: a specialist who determines the bill’s feasibility, a budget expert to assess its economic impact, and a lawyer to gauge its constitutionality. Each step is voted upon, to create a parliament that is “accessible, transparent and secure.”

Barillari told Il Fatto that the goal of the platform was to “remove the barrier between voters and elected officials” and that the site is “ one of the greatest experiments in direct democracy.”

The platform aims to reach about five to ten thousand initial users. M5S hopes to scale that up to 300,000 by next year. It is one of many Liquid Feedback platforms in Europe, designed to provide a digital and more transparent means for citizens to participate in politics, a place for direct democracy that was first pioneered by the German Pirate Party.

Editor's Note: Quotes in Italian were translated by Antonella Napolitano

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