Most major voting systems are unevenly weighted, prone to manipulation by and via the media, established parties and corporations, and can lead to results that seem to do anything but represent the will of the people.
In March 2012, the Finnish government approved a Citizens’ Initiative Act, which was designed to enable more civic participation in government. Any proposal from a voting-age citizen, supported by 50,000 signatures (1.7 percent of the voting population) – collected within a six-month period – must be put to the vote in parliament. In response, a handful of tech entrepreneurs launched the non-profit Open Ministry initiative, to promote “crowdsourcing legislation, deliberative and participatory democracy and citizens initiatives”.
Early proposals included a ban on fur farming, a requirement for all public software procurement to take into account open data and APIs, a ban on energy drinks for under-16s, and a referendum on Finland’s restrictive alcohol laws (the government has a monopoly and prices are sky-high). An early success was a gay marriage bill, which garnered 107,000 votes in just two days; parliament, which had previously blocked the bill at committee stage, approved same-sex marriage in Finland in December 2014 and the bill was signed by the president in February 2015.
Open Ministry is looking to take its federal model and apply it to Finnish municipalities with Open Council. The Slovakian and Italian parliaments, which have existing laws for petition-supported proposals for legislation but currently lack the infrastructure to support discussion, campaigning and lobbying, are looking into adopting Open Ministry. Co-founder Joonas Pekkanen says: “Funding has been a major challenge. We are volunteer-based with only a few active people and are currently looking into EU funding programmes.”
Chris has been writing on travel, tech, sex, food, art and books for nearly two decades. He co-founded street paper Hecho en Buenos Aires, writes regularly for the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, and is now writing a thriller set in Andalusia.
Joonas Pekkanen, Co-founder