What do you people want?! We all hear about how the relationship between citizens and governments has broken down, and how voters no longer trust politicians. So how can we rebuild trust and repair faith in democracy? Is it time to start experimenting with different forms of citizen participation, engagement, and direct democracy? Should citizens be more engaged with co-deciding budgets, urban planning, healthcare standards, and even rewriting constitutions?

Do citizens need a stronger voice in democratic decision-making? Or is the current system of representative democracy fit for purpose? Perhaps a few tweaks here and there would be enough to instil a greater degree of trust in government? Or is it a good thing that citizens don’t trust governments (in order to better hold them to account)?

On 8 March 2018, our partner think-tank will be holding an event in Warsaw as part of their European Young Leaders programme. One session will aim to identify three key recommendations for ways to improve the direct participation of citizens in European democracies, based on the input of 100 Warsaw citizens, the European Young Leaders, and the voices and views of readers on Debating Europe. The recommendations will also be translated into a series of live, pan-European debates on direct democracy and shared with EU decision-makers in the lead-up to the 2019 European elections.

So, tell us: What do you want from democracy? Take a moment to fill in the survey below, to give us a better idea about where you all stand, then let us know your opinions in the comment section below.

What do you want from democracy? Do you think your vote matters? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) hadrian / BigStockPhoto.com

65 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Matej

    Actual intelectual democracy. The impossible, basically.

  2. Lulzim

    Politicians are elected by the citizens or by the voters to represent them in the parliament. .Citizens believing that they made a good decision vote for the preferable candidate but nothing of it what have been said during the election is not fulfilled. Very simple formula – people elect the candidate, the candidate betrays them and you can”t complain. This is not democracy, the democracy is when people who voted or voters to be eligible to participate when have to be decided for the very difficult issues concerning the country: budget, urban planning and even a rewriting the constitution. I believe in motto – Voters elect- voters reject.

    • Lydia

      Exactly !!!!

    • Mariana

      That is exactly what I believe! Plus political education for the future voters starting early in school.Lack of education is a recipe for desaster!

    • David

      Yes. Exactly. We need democracy that allows removal as well as ascendancy by popular vote in some form to reduce tendency for corruption. In addition, we need something very much like the ‘alternative vote’ system ( https://youtu.be/3Y3jE3B8HsE )

  3. Vytautas

    Today, one man got prison sentence for making and distributing “No for Euro” flyers as “anti-state activity”.
    This is democracy we have…

    • mike

      in what state did this take place?

    • Carys

      Yes I agree and it seems so simple doesn’t it, you do the right thing for your people and country and you don’t lie, cheat, evade or avoid paying your taxes, you lead by example

  4. Esther

    democracy that goes together with human rights and the rule of law. If one of the three is missing, societies collapse

    • mike

      I agree but laws are written by people in certain circumstances, conditions and time they should be under continuous scrutiny and amendment and not let societies be led blindly by them.

  5. Ivan

    No antidemocratic European Union would be a great start.

  6. Julia

    A more social EU. You take care of corporate tax evading corporations sucking up subsidies with people’s tax money. Now use people’s tax money for the actual people.

    • mike

      I think that the EU has shown it si capable of putting a harness on multinationals but has a hard road ahead of it.

  7. Ivaylo

    Every single single desicion in EU to be voted by at least 51% of EU citizens directly. Parliament and EU Commission to have no power other than execute the desicions made by us. Everything in the administative processes to be transparent and online.

  8. Yordan Vasilev

    I want from democracy to select good and honest leaders, who to serve to the people by the best manner.

  9. Valentin

    When you move to another EU country, the democracy doesn’t work anymore, no right to vote or no right to be elected. With a EU as a federal state we can have a real democracy in the EU.

  10. Peré

    Good governance, and a goverment that can be held accountable. And ofcourse a peacefull transfer of power when the people no longer trust it’s goverment. And ofcourse it has to be limited by the rule of law which includes individual rights.

  11. Wolfgang

    I expect an accessible enviroment, infrastructure, information, housing and transport. I expect direct payments to really finance our technical and personal assistance.I expect education for all. I expect to see the last institution fall. I expect a decent income with or without work. I expect an open society for all with no oppression and paternalism. I expect Independent Living. Deinstitutionalization now! Direct payment now! Crip with the club!

  12. EU Reform- Proactive

    “…….you people….. “ ? You MASTERS…….what’s up?

    Isn’t it a rather dismissive term to address voters- to start off with?

    Comparable to: “His Masters Voice” speaking about (disingenuous/fake) EU democracy?

    Lets FIRST hear what our “Masters” can & will offer us on the way to direct democracy!

    Once “the Masters” collected enough courage & great ideas and publicized their input- please give us voters a (democratic) choice for the way forward!

    So far, it’s all the way fake & along the path of “Practical Idealism”, “comparative advantages”, centralism & forced integration into one soul and body & the total removal of our UN enshrined sovereignty.

  13. Simeon

    Less taxes, more freedom of speech, freedom to defend yourself, your family & private property (guns), less political correctness and more actual democracy, less bureaucracy etc.

  14. Tarquin Farquhar

    Your 3rd polling question was badly designed. Perhaps said question should have been divided into 3 questions?

  15. Ivan

    Respect for men’s rights; eliminating positive discrimination regarding women; real democracy

  16. Popa

    Why you ask? The standard definition has changed or is under changing?

  17. Borbalad

    Which democracy now only multıcult have democracy local people dont have

  18. Stanislav Stoynev

    Direct democracy only!

  19. Róbert

    OK, let’s daydream. Individualism and private property with personal responsibility, not diluted collective responsibility. All natural rights absolutely guaranteed. No privileges turned into legal rights. Small unintrusive government. Free, deregulated market economy. Flat tax system. Lobbyism is bribery. Equity not equality. Patriotism, not nationalism. Clear and stable moral code and ethics. Strong, professional military. Education, mainly private, that creates self-reliant adults, not state-dependent, indoctrinated, obedient grown-up infants. Representative democracy, not direct democracy. That would be a democracy worth living in, and defending.

    • Antonios Stef

      Dear writer… I tend to agree with your daydreaming democracy …to continue on your fine thoughts I would consider looking back to our teachers of democracy in ancient Athens…were politicians were not allowed to leave politics by any penny richer than when they got in, when “exostracismos” was used to expell bad tactics in politics…to the point that even the most honest men would accept it as the way of evolution and change, with distinct principles and presentation of betterment alternatives and the huge potential of today’s internet direct democratic participation is feasible in a much larger scale than the Agora of the people…or the blind representative system exist ing to date…so many more thoughts to make it happen..

  20. Nikos

    What do we want from democracy? Well, to begin with, perhaps the peoples of the EU should have the right to directly elect the members of the European Commission. Further, the members of the EU should have their remuneration cut down to the average-national minimum wage (in Greece, that amounts to about 500 euros per month). Be this Utopian? Well, maybe the Commission would wish to avoid a looming dystopia…?

  21. Eric Kempson

    In the last five years Europe has become a disgusting place and that’s down to the European parliament and European commission, 5 years ago if a child went missing within the EU there would be posters at bus stations train stations air ports ect, and police departments would be looking for that child, now we have over 20 thousands plus children gone missing and children sleeping on the streets, children being tear gassed beaten up, there sleeping bags ect being taken from them so they cannot keep warm, you so called leaders have given the green light to the slave trade within Europe, you have given the green light to organ traders, you have given the green light to peidaphiles and sex trafficking, humanitarian trying to help suffering people being victimised by the authorities though out Europe, Refugees being abused by authorities, international laws being broken on a daily basis, the Genova convention being almost total destroyed in the last five years, you have your meetings with your big lunches praising each other what great people you are, looking the other way while the people are suffering, the whole lot of you are complicit with your silence and should resign, you have made Europe a disgusting place, we need people in positions of power that improve Europe, care for the people in Europe, stand up and shout when people in Europe are being abused shout when people are being abused around the world, put Europe back to being a caring civilized society, what has happened in Europe in the last five years is down to the people in power.

  22. Alex

    Not for cheapskaters , just for some porsche drivers and aple users.

  23. Iannis

    Ban lobbyists.the politicians should represent the people not business interests

  24. Eleni Kanaki

    First of all, we need an actual, contemporary redefinition of the term, one that takes into account current social and political needs, trends, changes, developments; one definition which is not framed only in European or Westernized terms, unless the whole EU rhetoric for spreading democracy into the rest of the world stops completely, and is removed from conditionality clauses included in all type of agreements signed by the EU. This means flexibility, decentering (see Keukeleire & Lecoxq, 2016; Fisher-Onar & Nikolaïdis, 2013.) and tolerance.
    Secondly, we need to identify the psychological trends that democratic regimes cause either on their leaders or on the electorate. For instance, consider that democracy is a confrontational regime in itself, although fights are symbolical and transposed on the political arena, hence legitimized. Nevertheless, this symbolical confrontation does not erase the fact that the fight might have extended effects on leaders’ personalities, who want to stay in their posts, making the whole issue a personal one. Populism has always existed, we can identify populist tactics since Pericles’ Athens. Democracies, in the way they are exerted until nowadays, have themselves caused their own pitfalls. Examples of Russia, Turkey are the usual ones, although we need not to search so far away! The same problems are widespread in European states, although we have not taken enough distance to notice them sufficiently. These need to be identified seriously and with a maturity of thinking. Not all scholars, politicians, thinkers, etc, have the adequate thinking for engaging in such an inquire.
    Thirdly, and most importantly, there is no “demos” in today’s democracies. The electorate is nothing but “political products’ buyers” (see works of Jean-Léon Beauvois, on the topic of democracy and liberalism). Democracy has not only caused psychological intrigues in modern leaders self-perception; the public has also been influenced. The fact that voters think that a vote is a sufficient political participation, and do nothing more but expect others (“leaders”, the government [abstract idea], etc) to do everything on their behalf. Not only a redefinition of politicians’ role is necessary, but that of the public’s as well. We need to do this in a contemporary frame, according to contemporary needs and if possible, take in account future needs, too. In addition, today’s European public is not the same as 50 years ago, the infrastructure is also different. If we still want to keep alive the European Union’s ideas and ideals, we need to realize that national states are not the same as they used to be. Inside national borders live people with a variety of European nationalities, if not outside Europe. What do we do with those people?! What are their rights?! Shouldn’t they have a voice too? These questions are crucial, during times when national rhetorics, xenophobia, remilitarisation and protectionism have spread all over Europe (and in the world). Should we forget about living together, in favor of regressive attitudes and national illusions, which are nothing more but historical creations of the 18th and 19th century, becoming political rhetorics for advancing an individual’s career while increasing public hate and misperception (see Jervis, 1976, 2017) ?! This is why today’s democracy can not and should not be the same as yesterday’s. We need to face the truth and face reality. We need not abstract ideologies; we need pragmatic and holistic approaches.

    • mike

      Great argument!!! You must be 99.99% of Hellenic decent.

  25. Phil

    Well said. Sadly the dream of the EU is turning out to be a dictatorship run by a few arrogant politicians in Brussels.

  26. catherine benning

    What do you want from democracy?

    The only democracy is Direct Democracy. (Switzerland) That gives the citizens within a politically free country the respect they are due. It acknowledges all citizens right to decide which direction their country is going to take before politicians have the audacity to force their insane whims on them. Or, indeed, what has been perpetrated throughout Europe over the last 40 or more years, along with the indoctrination of our society through force and fear.

    If people seriously want to understand if the united European experience has been good for them and their States, look at what the young are faced with today. Look how life was in the 50’s after WWII. How the citizen had advantages that have systematically been removed from them today. No work, no chance of their own home, no free education, no pensions, the NHS under severe threat. All the benefits we fought for in the UK and had until the influx of those sucking the life from our system.

    Before Ted Heath and his signing our lives away to Europe we had the right to fight against enslavement.


    And then we joined the EEC. And downhill from there. It kicked in 1976 when the reality of giving our money to the EEC began to rear its ugly head. Along with their open door immigration plan under their policies.


    Until the UK joined the EU we had a semblance of democracy.That died when Heath signed away our sovereignty. Had we had direct democracy this would never have happened.

  27. randomguy2017

    Lets face it, the Western world is not a democracy. Not nation is.
    Representative “democracy” doesnt represent people.

    And if countries like US, Russia, or Germany are democracies
    than apples are oranges.

    Oligarchs, bankers, military, intelligence agencies, have
    more say than 90% of the population.

    If someone says EU = democracy
    they probably take a ton of drugs.

    • catherine benning

      What do you want from democracy?

      @ randomguy2017

      I see it differently. One State in Europe is democratic. And if the citizens of this continent had any semblance of intelligence they would demand they had it as well. It’s called Direct Democracy.


  28. randomguy2017

    And you have a good point.
    A new study shows that the small majority of Europeans no longer like the current system. More people want direct democracy.
    People in power wont change though. Especially for more important issues.

  29. Akis

    Democracy means the power of the people. And as we know power requires responsibility. Responsibility requires effort. To be updated, educated, properly informed and be active in terms of public life. This is why it is also fragile and should not be taken for granted. Thus democracy and its quality is directly linked to the quality of its citizens. Consequently, lets just all of us see our selves in the mirror and think carefully to whom we will cast out vote.

  30. Katerina Dima

    All of the above statements are wonderfuly clear about our general feeling of a lost cause. Our dictated demicracies are based on a ground of fake justice. When we have a case of mansloughter with evidence and people who saw the act and arrested crimimals but justice id mot passed because the judicial system depends on corruptelected politicians who have positioned the judges, there is no justice. If we elect a government which can freely mamipulate finances, put their choice of people in positions so that they can all benefit from illegal black money but thry are covered from a law they passed by which parliamemt members are not to be tsken to court for illegal use of public money and if the persisting govermments are totaly in control of the public Media, by distributing black money to the media owners, then we have a total trap which takes not only freedom away from the people but thrir dignity too. And all this with a total knowledge and cover up from the EU headquarters. So our demand from democratic Europe is to safeguard education, put under legal rules the ethos of politicians, guarantee independent justice and let the people decide directly on special issues, respecting their decisions. Thank you for giving us the oportunity to voice our rage.

    • Ernest

      An interesting proposal to fix corruption in our political systems is sortition or random selection.
      The idea is that when you don’t know who’s going to be in office you don’t know who to bribe beforehand. Also candidates would be more willing to takle real problems during their terms knowing that after they’re done it will be very unlikely for them to win a new term.
      The sistem could also be tweaked to only allow people who distinguished themselves on a local stage to participate in nation wide or European elections.
      It would have some quirks to work out but I belive it may be a better alternative than the kind of democracy we have today.

  31. Ernest

    Democracy doesn’t work because of disinformation and manipulation. In an era where you can’t trust any news outlet to be objective and unbiased we can’t expect the people to make sound judgments and informed decisions.
    We’ve also lost the will to compromise. More and more around me I see people don’t want to make democratic choices, they want a tyrant who agrees with them. Democracy seeks the path which is least harmful to all. Without acces to objective and accessible information and without a willing to compromise how can we expect democracy to work?

  32. Hacker, texan cop

    1. Universal vote abolished – people with no education and people in welfare should not be allowed to vote.
    2. More referendums – people need to be able to have a say regarding important matters.
    3. No more “afirmative actions” and “positiv discrimination”.
    4. Free speach
    5. Free speach
    6. Free speach.

    • Bogo

      direct democracy !!! i want to vote laws not people…

  33. Alex

    Democracy is designed to fail, because voters are misinformed, greedy and gullible. Even Socrates hated democracy for this very reason

  34. Anita Asprou

    I am a great admirer and supporter of the European Union. I felt that it became too large in recent years, but of course this was done for political reasons, not economic. It has, so far , prevented wars among our members, and also created jobs and opportunities for many. Extremism must be curbed…long may the EU last!

  35. Savvas Lazopoulos

    European Union as a Nations’ State, as solid as a whole one, forged with the democratic values that are based on the free will of theirs citizens, requires more steps forward over various issues with the aim for equality and justice, throughout of all the member states. Nowadays, we are witnessing voices which consider themselves as the “upper zone” of nations, in comparison with others who maybe are next to their borders. On the other hand EU policy regarding economic and foreign affairs are far beyond from a Union as a solid Nation’s State.

  36. George Florin Staicu

    In Romania, the representative democracy is seriously twisted and denatured due to several major factors that are viciously interrelated:

    1. poverty of the electorate: almost 50% of the population lives below the poverty level which IMPLICITLY leads to factor 2;

    2. the people living in poverty are IMPLICITLY lacking the minimum sound education level which IMPLICITLY leads to the lack of ethical and moral values which IMPLICITLY leads to the lack of civic attitude and civic implication which IMPLICITLY leads to factor 3;

    3. .MASSIVE electoral absenteeism:
    3.a. over ten millions Romanians were absent at the last elections for the parliament which makes 60% of the total electorate with legal right to vote living within the border of our country !!!. this lead to 3.b;

    3.b. an ELECTORAL MINORITY of 3.6 million Romanians has generated a more then 60% DICTATORIAL PARLIAMENTARIAN MAJORITY of the socialist -neocomunist coalition SDP-ALDE ! This means that although they have a very low legitimacy due to their only 18 % of the total electorate with legal right to vote that voted for them, the socialist – communist coalition SDP-ALDE will ALSO (!!!) decide for the other 82% of the total electorate (!!) .this is a DICTATORIAL MONSTROSITY generated BOTH by a twisted representative democracy induced by the vicious circle of poverty – lack of education and civic attitude/implication – electoral absenteeism!!! THIS IS THE VERY REASON this SDP-ALDE DICTATORIAL, TALIBAN PARLIAMENTARIAN MAJORITY has started a DEVASTATING WAR against the rule of law and against the anti-corruption fight in order to protect its LIDERO MAXIMO Liviu Dragnea , the president of SDP and of the Chamber of Deputies that was already SENTENCED TO PRISON for…!!!ELECTORAL FRAUD!!! charges and currently is facing two other court trials for CORRUPTION accusations. Not to mention the DICTATORIAL adoption of laws that DEVASTATED the economic and fiscal stability with DEVASTATING macroeconomic impacts that generated historic levels of the exchange rate and of the inflation rate that negatively affects the Romanians standard of living!

    4. On top of all these three factors we must consider the very restricted electoral legislation and representation in the Parliament both for new , small political parties and individual independent candidate as well as for the Romanian citizens living in Diaspora that still keep their constitutional right to vote:

    4.a. it is practically impossible for newly established small political parties or for individual independent candidates to access the electoral process as they fail to meet the legal requirements (enacted by the current big political parties members of the parliament) ;

    4.b it is practically impossible for more than 4 (four!!) millions of Romanians living in Diaspora to exercise their constitutional right to vote as the current parliamentarian majority SDP-ALDE in power since the Spring of 2012 and its government refuses to increase the number of voting locations in other countries while the correspondence / electronic vote legislation is cumbersome and bureaucratic;
    4.c the level of representation in the parliament of the 4 millions of Romanians living in Diaspora is pathetically low: ONLY 2 senators in the Romanian Senate and ONLY 4 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies (!!!)


  37. Gina Polemarchaki

    Politicians has failed to keep the balance among people,we still face the same problems as the last century. People have exchanged their freedom for safety. We still have to choose among the bad and the worst. Many people still starve and others consum.. We need equality for all and no more people to tel us what to do when themselves don’t do it !
    Thank you.

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