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e-Democracy: Taking Our Democracies Back Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Choo Zheng Xi, Singapore Dec 21, 2003
Human Rights   Opinions


e-Democracy: Taking Our Democracies Back Howard Dean is the ex-Governor running for the Presidency in 2004, and faces a crowded field of 7 other challengers for his party's nomination. What has he done that's important enough for a teenager in Singapore to sit up and take notice of? Put very simply, he's reviving the greatest democracy in the world, and win or lose, he's become an inspiration to me and my fellow democrats in Singapore. In an age where politics has become almost synonymous with cynicism, Dean has appealed directly to the people for support.

Just take a look at his online campaign journal, Blog for America. He has open discussion forums giving his campaign direct feedback where most politicians would be relying on campaign staffers and pollsters to formulate policy. He's figured out what's the most likely key to getting young people excited in politics: the internet. Some people on his forums don't agree with all his policies, and many find his stance on civil unions far too liberal, but it’s the overwhelming sense of participation and empowerment that drives their support for him. One of his campaign slogans is "People Powered Howard".

It is precisely this revolution in empowerment that excites me. For far too long politicians have taken it for granted that corporations and interest groups would stimulate the support that would get them elected. This isn't specific to any country. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has long been beholden to postal service unions and the construction industry. The current American administration has a Vice President who was the ex-CEO of Halliburton and Co (an oil company). It seems that global democracy has been perverted into a "corpotocracy" (my new term for rule by companies).

In Singapore, the situation is even worse. Government investments are the main driving force of our economy, and gargantuan government linked companies (GLCs) are helmed by cabinet ministers, MPs, or their relatives. Politics has been desensitized to the extent that it is a negative effect on our adrenaline levels.

Which is why Howard Dean's brand of Democracy, what I’d like to call “Deanmocracy”, particularly excites me. It appeals the most directly to my constituency; the youth. Furthermore, its hassle free: I can express my views and get them heard from the comfort of my living room. Last, but most importantly, the internet is international: I can discuss politics with friends in Georgia, China or Macedonia, and seek inspiration from their experiences.

Already governments worldwide have recognized the importance of the internet in reaching the people: South Korea's Roh Moo Hyun won a narrow victory by appealing to younger voters via the internet. Similarly, Japan's Naoto Kan managed to shore up his party's seat tally in Japan's Upper House of Parliament by savvy online campaigning.

That's why I’m appealing for my friends internationally to take notice of this new phenomenon which has the potential to sweep the established political landscapes clean. From our living rooms, we have the power to launch digital revolutions: We, the people, have the power. The political centers of influence have shifted from the lobbyists in our capital cities to us, wherever we are. Let Deanmocracy reign.



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Choo Zheng Xi

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