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How Did A Spanish Lawmaker's First Experiment in Direct Democracy Fare?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, September 18 2013

Screenshot of Congreso Transparente

A Spanish lawmaker reached out through the Internet to ask citizens how he should vote on Spain's new transparency bill, which was passed in parliament on September 12. Joan Baldoví promised voters he would vote along with the majority of respondents. It was the first time a Spanish politician has experimented with direct democracy.

Baldoví told The Guardian that he got the idea while conversing online with young voters.

"[They] asked if they could vote on my behalf," Baldoví said. "We thought about it afterwards and decided to try it with the transparency bill.”

He announced the initiative in a YouTube video:

As of September 11, around 2,000 people had voted through the online portal. At the time, Baldoví hoped the number would still grow significantly. Unfortunately, the final tally hovered around 2,250 votes.

Participants could vote for or against specific elements of the law. In general, the overwhelming majority were in agreement: 99 percent said they were in favor of the bill that recognizes right of access to information as a fundamental right. To all but one of the questions, more than 95 percent of respondents were in accord with each other.

They only began to waver when asked if Baldoví should vote in favor of the transparency law, even if none of the approved amendments meant to bring it up to international standards were passed. A little more than 79 perfect said “No.”

Although the transparency bill and the amendments did pass, Access Info Europe warns that the law is still insufficiently strong.

Direct and participatory democracy was one of the demands made by the indignados when they protested two years ago, and in the years since as they continued advocating for change in the political arena. Activist platforms Democracia Real Ya and Partido de Internet [ES] also advocate for direct democracy.

Participation in Baldoví's experiment was low, and as a member of the Spanish green party Compromís-Equo, neither a dominant nor powerful party, Baldoví's gesture of direct democracy is really just that: a gesture. But it also sets a precedent, and perhaps other politicians will someday soon follow suit.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.