The in certain portions of the population). Given

 

The
value of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

The
effort to revitalize democracy in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) begins from
a challenging starting point. While officials emphasize the urgent need for
(re-) democratization initiatives, the low value attributed to democracy by the
population has been reflected in continuously falling election turnout rates
during the last decade (“World Development Report
2017,” 2017; Com?a, 2015).
Although one has to be careful in equating low turnout rates with a general
disenchantment with politics1,
longitudinal comparative studies on nations’ values show that mistrust of
politics in general and political parties in particular is increasing (van der Meer, 2017).
In addition, a strong tendency toward a substantial loss of faith in democracy
itself is evident.

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In
CEE, turnout rates are significantly lower than in the rest of Europe. The
tendency toward decreasing participation is even significantly higher when
looking at other forms of participation (such as memberships in or work for
parties). The post-communist democracies in particular (with the exception of
Hungary) have had to deal with a significant decline in turnout (Solijonov & International
Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2016).

The
following trends are visible: low political interest (democracy as a value is
questioned), criticism of the political practice/system, and a low sense of
political affiliation (leading to disaffection in certain portions of the
population). Given the existing criticism, we can conclude that changing these
tendencies will most definitely have to be accompanied by a fundamental change
in the system itself.

On
a side note, interest in politics strongly correlates with the level of
education – a connection particularly visible to the young people. Kyranakis
and Nurvala (2013)
showed that when young people are willing to participate, they are most likely
to focus on non-traditional, electronic forms of political activity. This
legitimates a strong focus on e-participation projects for young people in an
educational environment.

Against
this tendency towards disenchantment with politics stands a significant amount
of Internet-based bottom-up political initiatives such as thematic blogs,
informal political networking and new organizational forms for political
activities.

In reaction to these tendencies, governments
have sought to set up initiatives to vitalize democracy in the field of e-participation.
We will come back to these characteristics and prospects in more detail later.
We still need to evaluate the theory that we can meet tendencies

1 According with Verba, Nie, and Kim (1978) in times of a crisis, for
instance, voter participation can also increase, and in any case represents
just one factor of political participation.

x

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