Participants of the Zemsky Congress (the All-Russian association of opposition municipal deputies) held a round table on the problems of democratic representation, where they talked about the transition to more effective systems for organizing elections. As such, one of the speakers unexpectedly attributed such formats, actively criticized by the opposition, as electronic and multi-day voting. And some zemstvo spoke in favor of abandoning party voting, which would expand the possibilities of civil society in decision-making. However, the society itself is unlikely to be ready for this in the near future, the oppositionists admitted, calling their conclusions rather groundwork "for the future."
Opening the round table, St. Petersburg municipal deputy Vitaly Bovar (Yabloko) said that although his topic is related to theory, it is still important for the opposition to understand possible ways to build a "fair future for the country." The ex-deputy of the Timiryazevsky district of Moscow and the initiator of the Zemsky Congress Yulia Galyamina (included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of foreign agents) added that now the topic of representation at the local level seems to be an “ephemeral thing”, however, “you need to think about it now” so that at the moment, “ when there is no time to think and it will be necessary to act,” the opposition had a plan ready.
The existing party representation, according to MP Vitaliy Bovar, does not help citizens to participate in the system of local self-government.
An alternative could be a deliberative (deliberative) democracy, that is, the introduction of a set of procedures that would allow residents of the municipality to make decisions independently - that is, without or with minimal participation of deputies, he explained: “With this approach, unelected citizens could make decisions through , for example, civil assemblies, and politicians could deal with more technical, political and legal issues.”
Ms. Galyamina objected that, with all the advantages of deliberation, the introduction of these mechanisms will not work now, although their gradual introduction is also possible for the municipal opposition “this is a big goal.”
At the first stage, in her opinion, it is necessary to build a “normal representation”, which “cannot be ensured without fair elections”, and then introduce these very elements: for example, create the above-mentioned assemblies, use participatory design or draw lots to make specific decisions. “All this needs to be introduced gradually and carefully, and attention should be paid to the educational element so that citizens are brought up with this,” the ex-deputy explained.
Political scientist Vitaly Kovin (included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of foreign agents) noted that the introduction of elements of deliberation "requires a high level of civil and political readiness", but "far from many voters" possess it.
“We need to talk about additional forms of representation when society and citizens mature, when they recognize that not only professional politicians, but also ordinary citizens should play an active role in the life of the municipality. This is a rather idealistic picture, and not all municipalities of even the most enlightened democratic countries are ready for it, ”the expert emphasized. In order to form such a situation in Russia, in his opinion, “more than one year, more than one decade must pass, or maybe more than one generation must change.”
It is possible to ensure fair elections and increase the competitiveness of the forces participating in them through online voting, Ilya Kravchenko, deputy of the Volgograd City Duma from the Communist Party, unexpectedly said.
True, for this, the communist noted (emphasizing that he was a programmer by education), it is necessary to build a system that would make it possible to exclude falsifications. For the security of electronic voting, he proposed not to make it remote, in order to exclude the purchase of accounts or the expression of will under pressure, and at the same time open the source code to everyone. With the introduction of such a system, multi-day voting could also be used, the deputy is sure.
One of the most controversial was the question of the importance of parties. Yulia Galyamina urged her colleagues that parties are "diminishing representative democracy" by being "large bureaucratic structures" that are "sluggish, difficult to make decisions and take a complex view" of problems. Ilya Kravchenko added that it would be more efficient to vote "for programs, and not for people and parties." But Vitaliy Kovin remained confident that the main thing is still to ensure equal conditions for parties, public associations and self-nominated candidates. In his opinion, parties allow an apolitical and inactive part of citizens to simplify the choice by understanding the general characteristics of the party. “I don't think that in the near future voters will read the programs, this is a big illusion,” he concluded.