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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

Citizens versus the Government or Citizens with the Government: a Tale of Two e-Participation Portals in One City - a Case Study of St. Petersburg, Russia

P. 70-77.
Yury Kabanov, Chugunov A. V., Misnikov Y.
projects and citizens’ initiatives. Although the cooperation between them is the best outcome, they usually compete for popularity and efficiency, representing conflicting views on engagement. In this paper, we aim to determine factors influencing the outcome of such competition. We analyze the sources of portals’ viability as separate initiatives and the possibilities for their convergence and cooperation. We take the case of St. Petersburg (Russia), where public authorities and civic activists have created two e-participation platforms to address the same issues of urban development. Our main argument is that the viability of portals is based on their institutional basis. Our findings suggest that while the government – sponsored initiative is a formal institutional innovation with strong political support, it is unlikely to sustain changes in the bureaucratic process without political leadership. The civic initiative does not create new laws, but develops online community, contributing to new social norms. When the former is winning the competition in the short-term, the latter has a strategic advantage. Co-existence and “forced cooperation” is the most possible future here, as the institutional environment forces the government and activists to cooperate despite the escalating conflict. A rational choice by citizens, whose alternative suits their interests best, will also determine the future of the portals, but is shaped by the abovementioned conditions.