19-year-old student Parisa Molagholi was elected on 4 November 2002 for the municipal council of Vallentuna with 1,7% of the votes. Her success over the past few years has astonished traditional politicians. Molagholi, who was re-elected in 2006 with 2,9% of the votes, is the representative of Demoex, which has introduced a completely new way to participate in politics. She does not vote in the council according to her own or her party's views, because her vote is instead dependent on the online vote that is held beforehand on the website of the party. Every Vallentuna resident over the age of sixteen can register on the website to vote; anyone, from anywhere in the world, can take part in the debates provided they can write in Swedish.
In a direct democracy representatives are absent, or are limited in power as proxy representatives, as opposed to the more commonly known process of representative democracy. More precisely, Demoex is a political hybrid which uses e-democracy to create an injection of direct democracy into a system of representative democracy, in an attempt to create a 21st century version of the semi-representative democracy adopted by Switzerland since the late 19th century. Demoex (Democratic Experiment), a local direct democracy (DD) organization, is intended to begin on the communal level and proceed eventually to the national and even international level.
A party named Demoex was founded in Sweden on March 6 2002, and won a local election in the municipality Vallentuna in that year. Its goal is to develop local democracy through opening politics and decision making to the common citizens. The Demoex system is a computer age version of the Swiss Landsgemeinde , one of the oldest and purest forms of direct democracy. It was originally introduced in the Swiss Canton of Uri in 1231, and was structured as an open air gathering, usually in springtime, where votes were expressed by a show of raised hands. This system is still used in the Canton of Glarus and Appenzell Innerrhoden.
The Demoex vision is to open up the entire political process. All registered voters can indicate their views on a particular issue via polling on the internet; voters do not have to cast a vote on all issues. It then follows that the fewer votes on an issue, the more weight each individual vote carries. To prevent low participation, a user can choose an adviser if she/he does not feel engaged in a certain subject.
Although Demoex does not stand for any defined policy, it has a clear ideology: To extend the degree of democracy in society. They claim that technological solutions have surpassed the political. With the help of information technology Demoex wants to create liquid democracy.
What is the extent of democracy?
A simple measure: The number of democratic decisions multiplied with the number of voters. In Vallentuna 20,000 people vote in the local election every fourth year, and 41 representatives in the local government vote another 100 times per year on different issues. The total votes a year, then, amounts to more than 9000. With Demoex in power, the extent of democracy will increase. Suppose that 60 issues a year arise for voting in Demoex, and 1500 users vote on every issue. The total votes per year will multiply to 90,000, about ten times more than previously.
The ideology is based on the thoughts from Karl Popper and Henri Bergson about open society; the vision of a society built on the principle of public access to official records. Demoex strives for increased access and partaking in the politics.
Demoex uses statistical distribution. It means that the purpose of Demoex representatives is to reflect the members' opinions as the online statistics indicate. If Demoex had 5 mandates and 60% of the users' votes for a proposal, then three of the representatives would vote "yes" to that proposal. The rounding follows according to mathematical principles. If it becomes impossible to reflect the members' opinions appropriately in one question, then one representative would give a blank vote. Statistical distribution is used because it gains democracy. In every question, there ought to be only one democratic election. Many sub-elections on the same issue can easily put the majority principle aside.
It all begun at Vallentuna upper secondary school, on 3 October 2000. The municipality organized a theme day on "IT and democracy," and the question as to why so few young people are politically active emerged. Some students answered that they did not approve to choosing between ideologies. They expressed that their point of views were impossible to place on a political right-left scale. Other students were pessimistic about the aspects of political influence. "Decisions are made from above," they argued. Others answered they had no time to be involved in politics. Others again thought of politics as boring, tiring, and insignificant.
After an internet debate, an oral discussion with local politicians followed. The evaluation showed that students appreciated the speed and the structure offered by the electronic debate system but they felt run over by the traditional oral debate.
From this experience, a handful of students discussed with their philosophy teacher Per Norbäck the possibility of developing an e-democracy. They decided to register a party and candidate for the local government in September 2002 with only one promise: To inject Direct Democracy in the representative system.
In January 2002, they started to work on the project. Soon after, they contacted Mikael Nordfors, a pioneer within e-democracy in Sweden. In the early 1990s, Mikael had founded a party with a similar ideology. Mikael offered Demoex to use the software he had implemented through his company. They made an Internet site, and started to sketch the flow of work.
Demoex tried to find a way to adopt direct democracy into the existing representative system. The Demoex model became a three-step process:
They also made rules for the participants to follow. The rules are necessary to avoid anarchy. When the rules were set and they had found out an accurate workflow Demoex had to advertise the concept. They distributed leaflets in the local postboxes, made Demoex t-shirts, and borrowed a house van as base for the electoral campaign. A certain interest from the media gave Demoex some attention. Though the advertising campaign was small and cheap, it was enough to win the first DD mandatory in Europe.
At the election day the founders gathered together where it all started, in Vallentuna upper secondary school, to watch the votes being tallied on a big screen TV. As excitement built, the crowd ran over to the municipal meetinghouse. A local journalist concluded that Demoex needed another 90 ballots, at which point the secretary stepped in with the last counted districts. Demoex had unexpectedly few ballots in the largest district, only 35.