With close to 2,000 proposals submitted to the People’s Assembly over 25 days, one of the NGOs behind the dialogue-bolstering forum said quality maintained an even pace with quantity.
On the day after the public submission of initiatives ended at a unofficial count of 1,944, the Cooperation Assembly’s Olari Koppel said he was “satisfied” that rahvakogu.ee – the People’s Assembly – did not become a place for negative populism and just venting frustration.
“There was a slight fear that perhaps we would be the developers of yet another web environment where people could, without choosing their words, vent their frustration and disgruntlement. To my great pleasure, the citizen’s parliament has proved in less than a month that intelligent discussion and proposals – discontented in their wording yet constructive – are possible on the online landscape in Estonia,” he said on an ERR radio show.
The preset topics and a clear time frame were different from past initiatives and aided the cause, said Koppel. “We could check at every instant what was going on with a specific proposal. In the past, people wrote their ideas in some field, pressed the send button and then just waited for something to happen,” he said.
Next, Koppel said, in a few weeks, the outcome of the analytical work – “sorting and sifting” – would be posted on the site, along with experts’ evaluations. In March, there will be public meetings on the ideas with the most support and the proposals could be presented to Parliament by the president.
“I hope that the media spotlight is enough to keep the proposals from falling down a hole and maintain the public’s attention on them. Perhaps it will also help politicians think about what action to take regarding these proposals in April and May.”
Koppel said political parties had also sent representatives to the expert group.
“Since the judgments of the experts are politically neutral and in a collegial atmosphere, this should rule out any political bias,” said Koppel.
The idea for the website was proposed by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves last November during a meeting he called with decision makers in light of widespread criticism of the government.
The website is run by volunteers from NGOs such as the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, the Praxis Center for Policy Studies, the Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations (EMSL), the e-Governance Academy and the Open Estonia Foundation.