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The spreading practice of direct democracy

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The pure form of direct democracy exists only in the Swiss cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. Switzerland is a rare example of a country with instruments of direct democracy (at the levels of the municipalities, cantons, and federal state). However, other countries practice direct democracy in the form of plebiscites, town meetings and other minor means of direct participation. The European Union is turning into a parliamentarian democracy at the continental level and allows citizens to to promote parliamentary initiatives through the European Citizens' Initiative, introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007.  Taiwan is leading this trend with greater vigour since hosting the 2019 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy.

Celebrating modern direct democracy with a Taiwanese character

A special democracy train, signature gatherers in Buddhist temples, nationwide Taiwan's Longshan Buddhist TempleTaiwan's Longshan Buddhist Templemarches for better legislation: a look back at the participatory celebration that was the 2019 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy.

Oct. 7.– Monday morning, 9:35am. Taipei Main Station, track 3B. Over 300 passengers are boarding the eight-car narrow-gauge special headed south to the port city of Kaohsiung.

“This is the nation’s very first democracy train,” explains Transport Minister Lin Chia-Lung (of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party) in a smooth departure ceremony to welcome participants to the 2019 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy: a week of events, visits, and conversations around the question of “how can we transform people power movements on the street into well-designed institutionalized participatory and direct democracies?”

The West Pacific island state of Taiwan has come a long way in the past three decades. After the departure of the last Chinese dictator, Chiang Ching-kuo – son of general Chiang Kai-shek who had occupied the country in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war – the 23 million citizens of Taiwan have managed to quickly transform their country into one of the world’s most democratically-advanced societies. A democracy talk in a Taiwanese temple.A democracy talk in a Taiwanese temple.

Important milestones were the establishment of free and fair elections in the late 1990s, as well as the introduction of a user-friendly initiative and referendum process after 2004. In fact, the latter is the main reason that this year’s Global Forumexternal link – the biggest gathering of its kind worldwide – took place in Taiwan.

Citizens' Initiative for Neutrality
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