The party is online: risks and prospects in the era of digital democracy

This article is an excerpt from the thesis of Dr. Camilla Donà dalle Rose titled “The party is online: philosophical-political analysis of the party platform in the era of digital democracy.”


Due to the decline of trust in political parties, the unprecedented drop in the number of party members, and the contempt for politics in general, new platforms are emerging to re-legitimize the party system and increase participation in politics.


The 5 Start Movement in Italy, Podemos in Spain, and Pirate Parties in Northern Europe are developing an unprecedented party shape in the era of digital technology. These parties are experimenting with democratic innovation through digital platforms that inform and mobilize their electorates, allowing them to vote on public policies, government formations, and internal offices. The goal is to ensure a response to citizens’ need for participation, transparency, and openness, while recovering the lost trust between voters and elected officials.


The Rousseau platform is the operating system of “direct democracy” for the 5 Star Movement. A simple majority vote becomes the basis for the decisions of the movement’s leaders rather than the community. The platform becomes a mechanism for ratification and control of the work of the elect, but only for a small percentage of voters.


The approach behind the Participa platform of the Spanish party Podemos is very different. Its goal is to involve the majority of citizens by providing an entire area dedicated to the discussion and presentation of their proposals. This platform represents the party’s desire to mitigate the present political struggle and involved a large number of citizens in a meaningful way.


The “liquid democracy” platform, Liquidfeedback, of the German Pirate Party allows citizens to choose whether they wish to participate personally in the drafting and voting of proposals or delegate their vote. In both cases the platform promotes interaction, dialogue, and mutual understanding when resolving conflicts. The goal is not to replace the representative system in place, but rather reform it.


Though they have similar functions, each platform focuses on a certain type of interaction and understanding pertaining to the motivations and objectives of digital democracy. As of now, there are no digital alternatives to the party system that could make democracies function smoothly, but by exploiting the immense possibilities offered by technology, it is possible to revitalize democracy through digital means in the future.