Citizens propose legislative initiatives for consideration by the Latvian Parliament via an online platform, increasing participation and trust in the legislative process.
LOW PUBLIC TRUST IN PARLIAMENT
To address low public trust in the Latvian Parliament (Saeima), Latvia introduced collective submissions to the Saeima in 2011/2012. This participation system centres on the civic-initiatives platform ManaBalss.lv (MyVoice), developed and run by an NGO Foundation of Public Participation, MyVoice. Currently, the platform ManaBalss.lv has more than 430,000 unique users – a huge civic engagement rate for a country with a population of 1.9 million people.
CITIZENS PROPOSE LEGISLATION
When a civic legislative initiative on the platform gathers 10,000 signatures (about 0.5% of the population), it is submitted to the Saeima for compulsory consideration and eventual lawmaking. MyVoice deliberates the legislative proposals and provides their fact checking and legal consulting before their publication. MyVoice constantly expands this innovation in politics, and scales digital participation further via the platform Open2Vote.eu, especially its OpenSaeima functionality. Open2Vote provides timely public voting on the legislative acts still in-the-making. The platform also provides political matchmaking between its users and parliamentarians. In addition, OpenSaeima provides NGOs with easy-to-use access to the commenting on and amending of legislative acts.
ONLINE CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE
Since 2011, out of 96 collective submissions discussed in the Saeima, 56 civic initiatives have become national laws, including a constitutional amendment. According to our knowledge, this is the only incident in the world when citizens changed their constitution via the internet. Digital participation via MyVoice together with proper legislation create a uniquely effective ecosystem of civic impact on policy-making and mutual trust among the stakeholders, providing both the serious commitment of lawmakers and a not overly-regulated process are in place.