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Article

Что скрывается за «фасадом»? Исследовательская программа электронного участия в недемократических странах

Currently, non-democracies are showing a significant interest in e-participation tools, i.e. in various online mechanisms for citizen participation in public policy, such as epetitions and e-consultations. Such instruments can be found in a vast range of countries from the post-Soviet space to the Middle East. This leads to new interpretations of the role ICT play in regime dynamics, and describes the peculiarities of contemporary authoritarianism. While the Internet has long been considered a liberation technology, it is currently viewed as providing stability of the
authoritarian regime. In these circumstances, e-participation is becoming another pseudo-democratic institution, adapted as a tool for authoritarian consolidation. Although the number of works aimed at understanding this phenomenon is increasing, the research agenda is far from being complete. This paper, first, summarizes what we know and do not know about e-participation in authoritarian contexts, and second, outlines several prospects for further research. In this regards, the author considers e-participation as a policy, institution and process.

As a policy, e-participation is the result of the global innovation diffusion and policy learning. The most likely recipient of this innovation among non-democracies is a regime dependent upon internal and external legitimation, as well as having sufficient state potential for reforms. Quite often, e-participation becomes a window-dressing for a repressive Internet-policy and does not go beyond websites.

At the same time, e-participation can become a full-fledged institution of authoritarian consolidation, performing the same functions as other institutions, such as information gathering and monitoring the elites. For this, online mechanisms must have a certain institutional design and manipulation menu. It eventually helps dictators to channel Internet protests into the spaces that are fully controlled by the government.

E-participation in non-democracies as a process remains an underexplored issue. The evidence prove that the use of such mechanisms indeed makes citizens consider the government to be more legitimate. However, it is to be further explained who, why and with what result is engaged into non-democratic e-participation.

The author argues that a stronger integration between comparative authoritarianism and e-participation studies would be beneficial for both areas of research.