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Bridging the e-democracy gap in Portugal

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This article analyses the communication practices of Portuguese Members of Parliament (MPs) and their views on the role that the Internet plays in a democratic system, followed by a discussion of the origins of what the authors label the e-democracy gap in Portugal. They counter several Deputies' beliefs that weak vertical communication between the elected and the electors result from the small number of Internet users, the weak participatory quality of the citizens and insufficient secretarial support. Because adaptation to the Internet must be viewed from a broader perspective, the authors demonstrate that not only are there varied examples of civic participation via the Internet between citizens and parliament, but that there is also an absorption of Internet use in the routines and management of parliamentary functions by many of those entrusted with those duties in the last two Portuguese legislatures. The authors' thesis is that the Internet, under the current methods of political institutional integration of the media, does not on its own enable an increase in public participation. Citizen political participation vis-à-vis democratic institutions such as parliament can be empowered by the Internet so long as representation and politicians' attitudes toward the public, and of the latter toward the former, change.
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Keywords: E-democracy; MPs; Members of Parliament; Portugal; citizens; information and communication technologies; political mediation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: ISCTE, Av. das Forcas Armadas, P-1649-026, Lisbon, Portugal 2: Department of Political Science, Dowling College, Oakdale, NY, 11769, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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