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Direct and representative democracy

Direct democracy, most feasible at the grassroots, is the highest form of democracy, emphasizes a study sponsored by VPDF for inputs to the International Meeting of Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Humanity, held in mid-October in Caracas.

The study, titled “Democratization and People’s Power”, says in its part on direct democracy and representative democracy:
Direct democracy is the highest form of democracy, where all people have the right to take a direct and equal part in making decisions on all questions related to their interests, thus ensuring that everything should be “known to the people, discussed by the people, done by the people, and overseen by the people”.
The most feasible form of direct participatory democracy is grassroots democracy, right in the community, at places of work and residence, where the issues are familiar to the people’s knowledge and understanding, and where the role of direct democracy can be promoted to the utmost in daily life. At the grassroots level, all people are to directly elect the leadership and take part in solving problems related to their immediate interests. Along with the development of society and the people’s intellectual capacity, direct democracy should be broadened accordingly step by step. In that spirit, broadening of direct democracy constitutes one of the major criteria and manifestations of the democratization process. The larger the space for real power in proportion to  that of delegated power, the higher the level of democracy. The highest level of direct democracy is elections and referendums on most important national questions.
Direct democracy, however, can be efficient only when the people have equal access to sufficient and accurate information on the issue in question, know well its nature, and understand fully the implications of different options. Whether a solution can be found through direct democracy depends on both the provision of information and the people’s knowledge about the issue. Without either of these two conditions, the people would easily be misused as instruments in demagogic campaigns to give a legal figleaf to imposed decisions. That is why, the operation of the entire political system should constantly promote the citizens’ political activeness by helping heighten their intellectual level, providing them with sufficient information, creating mechanisms for them to raise their voices and take part in decision-making processes, and genuinely respecting their opinions and their role as the master.
For issues beyond the public’s knowledge, solutions reside in representative democracy, where competent persons are empowered to take part in decision-making on behalf of population groups.
Representative democracy can exercise its function as a major component of a genuine democratic system only when the empowered persons really represent the interests of all related interest groups in proportion to the composition of society. By this logic, the representatives of the interests of the largest group in society, i.e. the working people, must always constitute the absolute majority in the parliaments of all countries. Reality is, however, quite the contrary, for in the establishment of representative democracy institutions, the selection and election proceedings are most easily abused. The main reasons are the following:
- The popular masses are not sufficiently provided with related information. Tendencies to de-politicize and de-organize the masses are limiting their political awareness and their capacity for effective participation.
- Sophisticated public relations and electoral technologies can impact strongly public opinion and become powerful instruments influencing election results.
- With regulations and stipulations of democratic institutions as well as election mechanisms and proceedings lacking transparency, those elected may not really represent the interests of the social sections or groups of citizens of which they are the representatives.
Due to disparities between representative democracy institutions and the interests of the popular masses, representative democracy bodies are often abused to legitimize decisions running counter to the people’s aspirations and interests.
Thus, the question is for representative democracy institutions to really reflect the will, aspirations and interests of the different sections of the people. That is why, the selection and election of individuals representating different sections of the people and different interest groups should be really democratic, without manipulation by money or any particular interest group. To this end, candidates should be selected transparently and publicly on the basis of clearly defined criteria, the selection and election processes really equal and free of influence by money, and the mass communication system free of impact from commercial interests or departmentalist powers.
Broadening of direct democracy and reform of the representative democracy systems to meet the above-mentioned requirements are among the necessary measures toward democratization in all nations./.






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