Egypt Independent

Developing the democracy invention

Democracy is an invention of humanity just as the telephone is. The basic difference between the two inventions is that democracy has not developed for hundreds of years, whereas the telephone has evolved in form and function several times since its recent invention. The world today is witnessing increasing demands to develop the invention of democracy (among many other human inventions).

Ancient Greece – the city of Athens specifically – owns the intellectual property rights for the invention of democracy. It was there that democracy was first exercised directly when all citizens were invited to meet in the large city plaza in order to deal with various matters and make decisions.

An increase in the number of citizens posed logistical problems regarding a place for all the citizens to meet and the growing number of matters that needed to be decided upon. So humans developed democracy to cope with these new challenges.

Thus appeared parliamentary democracy, wherein citizens elect a small number of individuals to represent them and participate in decision-making processes on their behalf. From this structure emerged the institution of parliament, within whose framework those deputies meet. Citizens elect them every some years.

Today, this form of parliamentary democracy is subject to many challenges that prompt countless demands for its development as a human invention. One of these challenges arises from the fact that a place where citizens convene has come into existence yet again. There is now an online space that includes large numbers of people via the Internet. Some people have proposed the possibility of making an electronic identity for every citizen. One would use this identity to vote without going to polling stations, thereby participating in what has become known as digital democracy. The economic use of the Internet with the expansion of variety in goods and services has encouraged some to call for extending such widespread use of the Internet to politics as well.

The Internet has also helped empower individuals by enhancing their ability to form opinions without the need for guidance from the elite. Doubts about the parliamentary elite have also arisen. This elite is sometimes seen as a group of individuals who possess specific resources that help them succeed in elections despite that they do not necessarily belong to the general public or express public interest. These elites are also members of political parties that impose their agendas on the deputies while usually adopting rigid beliefs and ideas. Thus debate in parliaments becomes futile and does not lead to changing attitudes.

These feelings toward the elite spurred the success of many independent election candidates after voters began seeing political parties as burdens on the MP. They also helped spread the phenomenon of populism, defined as the political approach that claims to speak for the simple citizen and express his interests. There now exists a populism of political right, apparent in the popularity of Donald Trump, and another populism of the left, demonstrated by the rise of Bernie Sanders, in the United States. The appeal of the political center has declined.

Some call for greater use of referendums in order to involve citizens in decision-making, as demanded by the yellow vest protesters in France. Some have adopted the idea of establishing special councils that participate in decision-making procedures. The members of these councils are chosen from ordinary citizenry on a regular basis through a lottery system, rather than by elections, so as not to express any special interests.

In short, we are witnessing the empowerment of the individual and the strong return of the will of the people. Every country in the world will have to adapt, developing its institutions and decision-making processes to reflect this will.