PRAVNI ZAPISI • Year VII • No. 1 • pp. 20-54
PUBLIC DELIBERATION IN THE FUNCTION OF OVERCOMING THE DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT, PUBLIC DEBATE AND DELINEATION FROM PUBLIC HEARING
Asistent, Pravni fakultet Univerziteta Union u Beogradu
Pravni zapisi, No. 1/2016, pp. 20-54
Original Scientific Article
public deliberation, representative democracy, citizen participation, democratic deficit, public hearing, citizens
The article analyses forms of direct democracy from its historical forms, in Ancient Greece, to the modern ones, in Switzerland and the USA. Pointing towards the modern flaws of representative democracy cy, which dominates the present world, the author explores the forms of citizen participation – from participation to influence, which assists the overcoming of the democratic deficit in practice. Besides the traditional (classical) ones, the analysis also focuses on the innovative mechanisms, from informal to formal ones, from individual to collective mechanisms. The focus is on the procedures of direct citizen participation such as elections, referendum (with its modalities, plebiscite and popular veto), citizens’ initiatives, the right of legislative initiative, public meetings, as well as seeking new constructive solutions which enable the citizens not only to express their opinions through selecting the option for or against, but to actively participate and express their own opinions, positions, experiences and arguments – to participate in public deliberation. These are: public debate, public hearing, public consultations and public discussions, round tables and public presence in the form of mini-audiences, public opinion polls and participation in surveys, cooperation of state bodies with civil society organisations, public call for submission of proposals, remarks and petitions, public-private dialogue, focus groups, citizen panels, citizen conferences, citizens’ advisory committees, town hall meetings, citizens juries, consensus conferences, the world cafe. In particular, the article points out that e-participation is nowadays utilised more often and gains significance, since it enables citizens to submit their proposals and remarks electronically, in the form of discussion and interaction via social networks and on-line dialogue platforms.
It points towards the positive effects and advantages of direct involvement of citizens in the process of decision making and policy making, through contributions to correcting, stabilizing and consolidating the modern representative democracy. Considering the forms of direct citizen participation in the Serbian society, the next part of the article focuses on the public debate and analyses its legal framework in Serbia and the region. With an analysis of public hearings, the article confirms the author’s initial hypothesis that public hearing is not synonymous to or a form of public debate (as often understood in the Serbian public). The author identified 13 original criteria of delineation by which these two institutes differ. Indicating the possibilities of application of other innovative mechanisms of citizen participation which have been proven in the practice of other countries, the author provides concrete recommendations and three possible legal routes for the improvement of public deliberation and concludes that by the power of an argumentative public deliberation and the participation of a larger number of citizens and all sectors of the society, as well as the involvement of their arguments in final texts of laws and other regulations, the present partocracy could be led to a rule of reason, i.e. that the state of political parties is transformed into a state of reason.