- Frequently asked questions concerning WeCitizens
What public problem are you working to solve and why?
Partitocracy means that parties have captured the power, and citizens are conducted to many forms of submission to the party they choose. Parties and institutions tend to dilute responsibilities. It is hardly possible for the citizen to sanction the abuses.
There is a break (distrust) between the citizens and the politicians. Many citizens do no more care about politics. They seek to fraud as much as possible in order to reduce the impact of politics: taxes, rules, etc. The participation to elections is decreasing: in the EU elections of 2014 only 28% of people below 25 years participated.
Citizens are not aware that the main victims of this fracture are the citizens themselves. Many politicians are happy that citizens leave the place, and allow them to work in an opaque way. This facilitates corruption and abuse.
Citizens are growing irresponsible. This make society more exposed to risks of demagogy, manipulation, extremism, etc.
We lack citizens’ participation and involvement.
People are no real citizens, because this would involve more solidarity, more responsibility for the common interest.
How are you attempting to solve the problem?
It is essential to put the responsibilities at individual level. We advocate the possibility for citizens to vote for individuals (within the parties). We promote a new democratic model: delegated democracy. In this system, each voter gives a revocable mandate to one person to represent him in parliament.
We shall not solve the fracture between citizens and politics, if we only denounce abuses from politicians! We must get people understand that likewise in the society, there are good and bad politicians. Voters must feel the responsibility to select intelligently their candidate(s), based on three main criteria: political affinity, professional competence, integrity. The latter is the most difficult to assess. We provide, in Belgium, information that voters can understand: vote advice applications, profiles of politicians, plugin “linking celebrities”, etc.
Our transparency tools can be used in schools as games, as powerful ways to make people familiar with politics and politicians. Our database of politician is interactive and participative. More rigorous than Wikipedia, we require a validation procedure when people provide data.
How does your work illustrate or expand the definition of what it means to be an active citizen or member of your community?
The most basic duty for an active citizen is to participate to elections with a sufficient preparation. Our transparency tools make this task more easy and attractive.
People do not invest time in elections if they feel it is useless. The model of delegated democracy reduces the feeling of being powerless.
Modern society moves from traditional model where power is in the hands of “pillars” (traditional parties potentially linked to religious authorities, main trade unions), to a network of civil society organizations (CSO). Delegated democracy allows many such CSOs to have their representative in Parliament.
Our website includes campaign tool and other possibilities to send reminders to politicians in order to get their answer on political questions. This is a “quick win” to enhance communication between the citizens and the politicians. Any CSO, any lobby, can use our instruments.
We aim to be more active in citizenship education. Our first projects are: (1) pedagogical kits to familiarize (young) people with our transparency tools, and (2) an exchange platform where offer and demand for citizenship training can match.
What concrete impact is your work having?
In Belgium there are few independant CSO focused on the democratic process, on fostering citizens’ participation. We fill a gap. We are the ones who launched, in august 2017, an initiative to publish a memorandum on democratic renewal. We took the initiative to gather the few CSO’s active in this field.
We are the only ones producing vote advice applications (VAA) for selecting candidates (not only parties) from the whole country. We are the first ones to introduce VAAs at local level (for next municipal elections). Our VAAs are linked to our database, which is unique in providing such a complete profile of politicians (including candidates).
We are a bit too new to show big figures of participation. In 2014, 25% of the candidates to elections participated in our VAAs, which were consulted 63.000 times.
When a CSO submits a question to all relevant politicians, he can expect to get 1% of responses. With our campaign tool (helping people to send reminders) we got nearly 20% of response rate.
In October 2016 we published a transparency index of political parties. Before we started assessing, no single party published its accounts. Two months later, 4 parties did so.
Brussels, September 14, 2017