When Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, and with him the entire team of Ministers, rose up from the government bench to walk out of the Austrian National Council, he posted on Facebook about the successful vote-of-no-confidence against his government: "Parliament has determined. The people will decide! Our path has only just begun”
How is it possible that in the 21st century the leader of the ÖVP, the party that was part of the government for almost the entire period of the second republic, tries to divide parliament and people in this way? How is it possible that Sebastian Kurz thinks he already knows the will of the people, on the basis of which the set-out path would certainly soon be continued?
"Now is absolutely the right moment for the idea of a complementary democracy," I thought to myself. If this kind of populism has reached even the top of the government, it's time for a new start and we should start a campaign ahead of the now scheduled new elections.
To put the idea of democracy at the centre! To finally bring the concept of real people’s sovereignty to the forefront! This is the topic that no one, no single person, no party, no class, can claim for themselves, but which by definition every single person helps shape. Through clear democratic processes.
One such process are elections: it is here that the people’s vote shapes the composition of Parliament. However, if afterwards populist speeches presume to know the will of the people, then maybe we also need a well-developed process for citizens-initiated legislation. In other words, we need complementary democracy, based on two pillars: representative democracy and direct democracy.
We have developed a concrete proposal for a three-step process: Citizens’ petition, a citizens’ initiative and a referendum.
At the level of the Citizens’ petition, a certain number of citizens can submit a draft law to parliament. If the parliament refuses the proposal, a citizens’ initiative can be launched, collecting more signatures and calling for a referendum. The Parliament then has one more chance to accept the proposal or come to a compromise with the initiators. If this doesn’t happen the question is put to the entire citizenry. The question is then decided by a majority of the votes cast, with a guarantee of balanced and comprehensive information ahead of the referendum.
These are the cornerstones of our proposal. Candidates in the upcoming election can comment on it and pledge to kickstart a broad discussion to strengthen democracy in Austria. This action will be accompanied by a petition.
All people - whether from Austria or from all over the world - are invited to support this petition, so that in future it will no longer be possible to speculate on what the people actually want. But so that the people, from whom according to Article 1 of the Austrian Constitution the law emanates, can form their will through a clear democratic process. Initiated not from above, but from their own midst.