Participatory Democracy and Deliberative Democracy. – By Teodros Kiros (Ph.D)

May 12th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Contemporary Ethiopia, embodied in the spirit of Birtukan Midekssa, whom I have previously called, the “queen of Justice,” requires both participatory democracy and deliberative democracy.

Participation and deliberation are the features of a democratic personality.

Participation is the capacity to effect change by bringing it about through social-political action. Deliberation is the ability to reason from premises to appropriate conclusions, through dialogue, discussion and debate. The democratic personality participates by deliberating, and the needed change is effected both by reasoning and acting. The parity of participation is propelled by reason, and participation itself is further developed by mature deliberation, a modality of reasoning.

The mature citizen deliberator is motivated to participate precisely because she is endowed with the willingness to (a) remove injustices and (b) articulate a vision of a plan of life.

When citizens participate they do so because they want to change their lives, by enhancing their life chance significantly, from the undesired situation to a desired one. They do so because they have a better vision for themselves and their nation. When citizens take on the heroic stance of resisting oppression, as contemporary Ethiopians are, they are exercising their democratic features, which grow out of their participatory spirit and their deliberative make up, most particularly their willingness to remove existing injustices guided by their vision of particular goods, and the Good of the nation.

Mature democratic personalities are sufficiently sophisticated to identify what Dr. Ghelawdewos, in a brilliant piece called, the “ Dark Horses of Ethiopian Politics” and avoid them so as not to be contaminated by political dirt, and carefully deliberate about the good of the nation.

Sometimes. Participatory democracy might not sit easily with deliberative democracy, because it is very likely that the visions of participating citizens might come into conflict, as for example between citizen A who wants expensive cars and citizen B who simply wants to secure the right to eat three times a day, and have reasonable income.

A and B meet at the public space as they are fighting for their rights, guided by conflicting visions of the good. They do so by conversing, discussing and debating to formulate various visions of life and removals of existing injustices.

What must they do? How can they negotiate their life chances? What are the roles of participation and deliberation in these defining moments of everyday life?

Mature democratic citizens must develop the capacity to resolve such differences peacefully. Resolving such differences require the virtues of participation and deliberation, a further function of participatory and deliberative democracy.

Mature democracies must train their citizens to effect change by participating and to deliberate about differences, when life threatening visions of the good life characterizes some social/ political situations.

On the surface participation and deliberation may appear irreconcilable, and indeed sometimes they are, but the differences can be accommodated by deliberating well.

Consider the following example.

At this momentous time of Ethiopian history, Ethiopians from all walks of life are desperate for change. The ruling regime, with its so called “ revolutionary democracy’, an abuse of terms, is forcing the inhabitants to vote for its policies, even when they wish not to, but cannot dare to say so, because the consequences are so grave. On the other hand, the opposition too wants the citizens to vote for its policies, fully aware that it cannot enact any change, because the outcome of the election is already decided.

Note how in this example, the citizen is not participating in determining her life chances, because they are already determined by the policies of the ruling regime. In this situation the citizen participates by not participating, but by merely voting, even that remote possibility is for those who vote, namely the privileged few and the many passive voters, who vote anyway.

Neither participatory democracy nor deliberative democracies is present in the so-called “ revolutionary democracy” of the ruling regime.

An opposition party of the future can radically change this situation by introducing the Ethiopian people to participatory and deliberative democracy, by drawing the people out to be active participants at the work place, at schools, neighnorborhoods, clubs, coffeshops, the internet, the radio, public television, and use the media of deliberation, that is dialogue, discussion and debates as ways of life.

These ways of life are living democratic practices, which can become the blood life of democratic citizens of participatory and deliberative polities that we Ethiopians can choose and institutionalize for Birtukan’s generation, a work that must begin now.

The dust settles, and the post-election mood of existential seriousness takes over. Let us say the ruling regime wins, and the masses return to their everyday lives. The rich and famous are content. The Ethiopian poors are not. The ruling regime rejoices from dusk to dawn. The poors glare at the rude buildings; the ill managed highways. Nothing in their lives has changed and is likely to change.

They sit at filthy alleys nursing sickly tomatoes and rotten onions, all day long. At the end of a miserable day they walk home past dead dogs and cats to their tin houses, which they share with five people or more. Upon entering a baby is crying her lungs out, a frustrated mother is shouting, teenagers are trying to sleep with empty stomachs, and miserably failing.

They wake up and stare at the stars outside, listening to the bitter cries of a prostitute, and a thief, who had just run with all the money, she earned for the day.

Time passes by and the poor are frustrated, so they begin to organize themselves. Participatory democracy begins exactly here. Soon deliberative democracy guides the paths of participation.

This time the masses are determined to change their life chances by any means necessary, and that participation and deliberation are now more than ever necessary. Political action invades the public sphere of Ethiopian life. Neighborhoods congregate every single day and night and publicly voice their concerns, that they are permanently unemployed, those who are employed are underpaid, food and clothing are unaffordable, and yet the ruling regime boasts two digit growth, but there is no connection between the figures and their life chance, that injustices and corruption are rampant.

The masses listen and they deliberate about what they must do. Some propose uprisings. Others propose massive hunger strike. A few want to march to the palace and storm in, if they must. Individuals are upset and are willing to die for regime change. The citizens are now fully exercising their deliberative power via participation. They say to one another that that they should patiently fight for their rights to the bitter end, and that this time they are not going to take no for an answer. They are going to stay on the participatory path and pass it on to schools, hospitals, clinics, work places, and to wherever space there are people.

It is in this way that participatory democracy in concert with deliberative democracy serves the interests of the people. It is they who must change their life chance, it is they who must tell, those whom they elect to organize their interests, what they must do, and how they should do it.

The contemporary Ethiopia of Birtukan’s generation must use participation and deliberation to change the Ethiopian condition, and ones the condition is changed, Ethiopia then can become a participatory and deliberative democracy, simultaneously and set an example for the African condition.

  1. aha!
    | #1

    Participatory and deliberative democracy=fdd/efdr=eprdf, where the concept democracy is a cover for TPLF and Tigrai-Harena respectively. Democracy is not concept for dialogue in forum is the meeting of the minds of free individuals achieved through the peaceful struggle for unity, territorial integrity, sovereignity of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Those objectives do not exist with those parties with Ethinic agenda to form a democracy for the people of the people by the people, who think and believe Ethiopipiawinet before ethnicity, where the mosaic of ethnicities of a fabric of the the nation as in a quilt or as in live tree, the stems and braches represent different ethnic groups; but not in the way represented by ethnic boundries, ethnic fedrealism and/or secessionism by TPLF/eprdf regime. You can talk all you want, but there is no democray under such scenario, but ethnocracy, which ever party with ethnic agenda prevails to govern the the country.True democracy is formed by the association of free individuals,not by participatory and deliberative democracy in terms of forum for democratic dialogue does not take us any where. It is neither revotionary nor a form of peaceful struggle for freedom and democracy, unless the the author is talking about a dialogue with TPLF/eprdf regime, which has been dealt with through the Code of Conduct Conference with subsequent dialogue of 8-point pre-contions for fair and free elections.

  2. Hirpo
    | #2

    So the dear Dr. writes “The dust settles, and the post-election mood of existential seriousness takes over. Let us say the ruling regime wins, and the masses return to their everyday lives. ….Time passes by and the poor are frustrated, so they begin to organize themselves. Participatory democracy begins exactly here. Soon deliberative democracy guides the paths of participation.”
    do tell us why this scenario did not take place after the last election? The dust settled, Woyane won and people went back to their miserable existence, then how come they did not organize as you said? do the poor spontaneously organize themselves, does your Medrek play a role in this or is it some miracle from heaven that makes this possible? Does TPLF sit and watch while this ‘deliberation’ is going on or does TPLF transport the deliberators to Dedessa? Your theory leaves a lot out and is based on wishful thinking and not based on reality. For the masses to organize they need an organization otherwise it will be a mob situation that will storm the palace and hang your woyane friends just like in Romania or end up in their hasty departure like in Kyrgistan. I believe this talk of participatory democracy and deliberatory democracy is nothing but hair a splitting attempt to confuse and sound scientific. There is Democracy, one man one vote and rule of law. Can Woyane deliver that? I am afraid not. Nice try Doc. but it does not fly.

  3. Kane
    | #3

    Thank You, Tekola! You hit the nail on the head.

    No one could have said it better what I was feeling when I read the above mentioned article by Professor Teodros Kiros. I am not a political scientist or a historian by any stretch of imagination to critic or decipher what the professor was trying to convey in his article. But as a lay person who intensely follows the current political sitiuation in Ethiopia, I felt there was something missing, wrong with what he was saying.

    As you mentioned, the timing is suspect, to say the least. The whole argument, in my opinion, at best is, an acadamic exercise. To group the EPDRF, which is robbing the people and the country of its resources by any means oppresive possible; with groups like Medrek, from what I observe, watch and read in websites like this, is a group set out to change the dire situation Ethiopians finds themselves (due to no fault of their own) and advance a better democratic prospects to all Ethipians, is an absurtity.

    Please do not try to tell me what is happening in Ethiopia right now has any resemblance to “Participatory Democracy”. The current ruler and occupiers of office make the rules. If what they think should be a rule today does not convenience their twisted goals tomorrow, heck, they will change it. If the other participants (members of oppostion) do not like the rule curtiously made by the the ruling elite, well, it is their problem.

    The EPDRF (the rulers) are the Judge, Jurry and Excutioner, as they say in the western world. The whole elcection is a fraudulent sham. It is a facet to show their western donors and enablers that they are trying to implement democratic rule to this backward, hunger striken, devestated country (This is not what I think of my country). I bet if you could read their minds (there are lots of tell-tell signs to intellectually deduce what they actually think of themselves and the people of Ethiopia). They are the “saviors” of this oppressed, starved, and uneducated people; and they are showing us the way to a democratic lala land.

    Please do not enduldge us with this ridiculous idea that what is happening in Ethiopia is Democracy by anyone’s definition but the Woyanes. We know better.

    Hey, this is my piece of the deliberative democratic process.

    Thank You!

  4. Kane
    | #4

    please correct spellings for words that i misspelled.

    absurtity to absurdity.

    enduldge to induldge.

    Thank You.

  5. Hirpo
    | #5

    and to think that Abugida was an open forum where all sides can be reflected but to find out you are no better than the broadcast bureau of Meles Zenawi where one idea and one belief is made available is very disconcerting and depressing. Why abugida? Isn’t your mission to inform and teach? or is it to be used by whoever is in charge at the moment? You know what staying true to the ideas that help and promote Ethiopia is lasting but following the current trend does not go far because when they fail or are discredited you go down with them. The only way is to stay true to the ideals of democracy, equality and rule of law. To promote a faction, to promote individuals is not long lasting and it puts you in the same camp as Aiga and Ethiopia First. All your hard work and dedication is discarded because you choose to promote people not ideas. I am so sorry to see you take such a route. Our country is not lucky, her children do not seem to learn from history. You know this kind of partisan work and narrow philosophy will create mistrust and apathy in the organization and you will loose the best and ablest amongest you because they will notice the cliqueish nature and slowly drop out. the ones left behind will be the ‘yes masta’ kind and you really don’t expect to grow with such individuals do you? we have seen this trend before in party building, organization building and it hasn’t worked. Good luck Abugida!

  6. teodros kiros
    | #6

    I am very disappointed that not a single reader has gotten the message of the article. Not one, what we have is bubble found on the hatred of the writer, precisely because he is a Tigrean Ethiopian. This is sad, and Abugida must set an example of accepting articles on the bases of their brilliance, and nothing more. I appeal to the editor to set a new standard of proper journalism.

    This is a heart felt advise, or else…..

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