Problems and purposes
The popular initiative for a law on direct democracy, participation and political formation is only the last stage of a twenty-year journey that has seen the entire South Tyrolean / South Tyrolean community involved.
The bill supported, or rather the two bills supported by the initiative, originated from the promoting group, led by the initiative for more democracy association . Although it is undoubtedly considered the main reference, it must be taken into account that other actors of civil society and politicians (eg the Greens) also share and have made an important contribution to its same objectives. The path presented here is configured as a community movement, a network of multi-actor collaborations extended to the whole territory. Taken from the site of the Association for more democracy (Link 1 - The initiative) the objectives are as follows:
Initiative for more democracy aims at developing democracy in South Tyrol and bringing citizens closer to the issue of democratic participation. The idea of democracy is based on the belief that the human being possesses the faculty of self-government. Self-governing means:
- communicate and agree with the people of their community by deciding together the objectives and rules that the community wants to give and agreeing on how to achieve these objectives;
- entrusting citizens with the task of finding the best answers to community requests and ensuring that they are concretely implemented
- All this can happen only on condition that the community has the possibility to decide, that it can eventually revoke decisions taken by a majority and that it is in a position to take its own.
The Initiative, consequently, pursues the obtaining of a law on direct democracy and an electoral law that fully satisfy these purposes. Above all, he hopes that a power will develop that starts from the bottom and promotes the autonomy of citizens and their municipalities.
The Initiative works in a supra-party way and takes place in the different linguistic groups.
The initiative is financed with the contributions of ca. 500 members, as well as through donations from them and from sympathizers. On the other hand, activities aimed at promoting political education are supported with public contributions. Large-scale projects and campaigns, such as referendums and popular initiatives, are carried out with co-financing from other organizations and / or with their own fundraising campaigns (Link 1 - The initiative).
History and geography
The initiative for more democracy: from 1995 to the 2009 referendum
The first popular initiative started in 1995, and is supported by many South Tyrolean civil society organizations. In 1997, the Regional Council expressed itself, with a majority vote, in favor of the first attempt at a popular initiative law proposal for the legislative referendum, but the process immediately ran aground in the face of the objections of unconstitutionality put forward by the national government. In 2001 the reform of the Statute of Autonomy was passed, in which the competence to legislate on the matter passed to the Provincial Councils of Bolzano and Trento.
Therefore a subsequent attempt is addressed to the modification of the provincial order to obtain spaces for direct democracy. In 2005 the first provincial law on direct democracy (n ° 11/2005) was approved by the Council, wanted by the SVP, without the agreement with the promoting group. The result is a rule that provides for some referendums but still has too many constraints, which do not satisfy the promoters of the initiative; the quorum is 40%; there is no confirmatory referendum on the laws and acts of the Executive, there is no referendum booklet that reports in a neutral form the positions in favor and against the measures taken into consideration by the citizens.
On the basis of the new law, in 2007 the request was presented for a first proactive referendum in favor of a law on improved direct democracy, according to the aspirations of the promoting group. To this end, 25,896 authenticated signatures are collected in four months, with the support of 40 supporting organizations. On October 25, 2009, the referendum is held in the province and almost 150,000 citizens go to the polls. 114,884 (83.1%) citizens will vote in favor of the proposed law. The bill, however, does not enter into force because it does not reach the disputed quorum of 40%, for about 7,000 votes (Link 1 - Popular initiative 2017).
The Initiative for More Democracy: from 2009 to the Commission in 2014
Although the Initiative's bill did not become law for only a short time, the SVP is unwilling to take it into consideration.
In 2011, three directors of the SVP presented their own reform proposal (Dlp 107/2011). The group judges it negatively, because it would make it possible to present its proposals to the political representation but then it would be impossible to hold referendum votes, providing very high access thresholds for the territory (26,000 signatures) and extremely long times to get to the vote ( Link 1 - Popular initiative 2017).
Subsequently, on January 22, 2011, the Assembly of the Initiative takes the decision to present to the Provincial Council a bill through a popular initiative on direct democracy, improved following the experiences made in the 2009 vote.
The popular initiative is supported by 36 organizations and is presented on 8 March 2011 by the promoters, Stephan Lausch (historical coordinator of the Initiative), Raffaella Zito and Otto von Aufschnaiter, to the Presidency of the Provincial Council. In mid-June, the campaign collected 12,556 signatures, at the town halls and at collection tables in the squares and streets of the area. In view of the discussion of the various bills on the subject, in the Council, in the summer of 2011 the proponents asked that the citizens themselves express the draft law of their preference in a non-binding consultative referendum, to be resolved by the Council (Ib .).
On November 25, 2011, discussion of the Initiative's draft law was unexpectedly interrupted by the Legislative Commission.
In order to reach the consultative referendum on two proposals, the Initiative, at the beginning of 2012, makes use of the availability of the President of the Provincial Council to present a proposal to modify the law in force, which would make unequivocal the possibility of bringing more designs to the consultative vote of law. However, the SVP rejects this option. According to the representatives of the Initiative, the SVP leadership would have put pressure on the President to expire the deadline for a useful discussion of the proposed amendment (Ib.).
On 12 April 2012, the SVP council group alone, against the proposal of the Initiative, the Bürgerunion and the Freiheitlichen, 16 votes against 13 in opposition, passed its bill to the debate on the articles. The discussion on the articles goes on, even if it clashes with all the other opposition forces and the obstinacy of the SVP, which does not even approve a request for modification; it is a way to buy time, but it does not benefit the SVP goals. On 12 July the discussion resumes and on 13 is suspended and postponed to 11 September. The More Democracy Initiative believes that no compromise is possible on the basis of the SVP bill. There are too many elements and among these too many are essential and in addition the bill proves too full of shortcomings to be able to think of finding an agreement with the SVP in these central points (Ib.).
On 5 June 2013, the discussion in the Council Chamber resumed and the new law was voted on in the SVP version only by the SVP.
On 25 June the law is published in the official bulletin of the region. From that date, the three-month deadline within which the request for a confirmatory referendum on the law can be submitted by 8,000 citizens. On 4 July the request for a referendum was presented to the Prime Minister (Ib.).
Thus, the 8,000 signatures must be collected by 13 September so that citizens can decide whether or not this law should come into force (Ib.).
Over 18,000 citizens supported in all the municipalities of the province between July 20 and September 15 the request for a confirmatory referendum and popular initiative to bring the bill of the initiative for more democracy to the Council for discussion.
The date of 9 February is set for the holding of the referendum. The commission that evaluates the admissibility for the referendum request judges the forms inadequate to ensure that people are certain about what they sign. The promoters lodge an appeal against this decision with the court of Bolzano that accepts it (Ib.).
The confirmatory referendum takes place on 9 February 2014 (there is no quorum on this type of referendum, as in the national case), with the participation of 106,305 citizens (26.4% of those entitled), 68,333 (65.2 %) against and 36,502 (34.8%) in favor, the law does not enter into force (Ib.).
Not accepting the request of the promoters of the referendum and of the popular initiative to establish a public round table, in order to elaborate a new law proposal on direct democracy, the Legislative Commission of the Council, decides to elaborate it on its own initiative following a participatory process from herself organized (Ib.). The idea of an open, inclusive, participatory discussion, which goes beyond the rigid contrasts between parties and movements, to dialogue together and bring out new solutions is to be attributed to the councilors Magdalena Amhof (SVP) and Brigitte Foppa (Verdi); the profound respect for mutual diversity was the democratic value that allowed them to work together on a shared project to develop viable democratic innovations that their territory has long been asking for .
The stages of the participatory process of the 1st Legislative Commission
October - November 2014: the ideas and expectations of citizens throughout the province regarding a new law on direct democracy are collected and the outcome of the debates held in all the districts with interested citizens is published;
January - March 2015: workshops with representatives of over 50 associations and organizations; the central themes and questions of a law in this sense are studied in depth;
spring 2015: the legislative commission instructs a working group chosen from among its members to draft a bill based on what emerged in this first phase of involving citizens; on issues with conflicting positions, the working group consulted experts and sought solutions in a second round of consultations with organizations;
March 2016: the structure of the bill and the key points are presented to organizations with an invitation to find agreements on points of conflict or to seek alternative solutions;
April - May 2016: The outcome of the entire participatory process in all seven districts is presented to interested citizens. At the end of the process, experts were invited to discuss the outcome of the work (Ib.).
On 26 October 2016, the President of the 1st Legislative Commission, Magdalena Amhof, presented the draft law to the Commission (Council, 2016). The Commission establishes that the bill before being formally presented to the Council and thus starting the process of discussion, must be discussed within the council groups (Ib.).
On 24 February 2017, 33 organizations made public an open letter addressed to the provincial councilors with which they demand the start of the council's work on the bill and the approval of the Amhof / Foppa / Noggler law no later than May 1st. If this does not happen, they announce that they want to present the bill to them on popular initiative in the Council, thus obliging him to face it definitively before the provincial elections of 2018 (Ib.).
Popular initiative n ° 5, May 26 - August 11, 2017
On April 26, the request for popular initiative is deposited in the Provincial Council, on behalf of 36 organizations, so that the proposal for the bill on direct democracy is 'forcibly' submitted to the vote of the Council. Thus the collection of signatures starts (at least 8,000) in order to make the initiative legally valid. In reality, the promoting group is not only presenting one bill but two, raising the stakes. In fact, the signatures will also be collected for a second version of the law, slightly modified compared to that of the Amhof / Foppa / Noggler working group. Therefore, once again, 8,000 signatures are to be collected (Ib.). During the collection of signatures, another action is taken, also to attract some media attention: the delivery of an honor to the councilors Magdalena Amhof (SVP), Brigitte Foppa (Verdi) and to the councilor Josef Noggler ( SVP). With this action it was publicly reminded that the bill that the Council did not deal with and which is now forced to submit with a popular initiative, was the result of a long participatory process, was led by two advisers from the majority party, it had involved various representatives of organizations and citizens. In addition, the main promoters of the Initiative publicly thanked two advisers from the majority party (SVP), their main rival, for the value of the work done .
On 4 September 2017, the promoters delivered over 11,000 signatures to the Council in support of them, a good number over the 8,000 threshold.
On October 26, 2017, an international congress was organized “Rethinking democracy - Can we still save ourselves with more democracy? Yup". Several speakers meet, addressing the issue of the adjustments and transformations in culture and political management that a parliamentary / representative democracy undertakes when introducing practicable and accessible direct / participatory / deliberative democracy tools in its system  .
In January 2018, a press release campaign starts and online, on the website and on social networks. The temptation to change the law by the SVP in the discussion of the Council is still strong. “There is no agreement in the majority group” says M. Amhof. And the discussion is postponed to February 2018 .
Promoters and lenders
Initiative for more democracy . The main promoter and organizer of the whole campaign for more democracy is an association from Bolzano, founded in 2000. Its coordinator and historical leader is Stephan Lausch and the current president is Erwin Demichiel. The association has about 500 members who self-finance ordinary activities, in addition to donations from sympathizers. Its network consists of between 30 and 50 actors who regularly adhere to its actions (eg Legambiente, Dachverband für Natur, Heimatpflegeverband, Giovani Bolzano, Baubiologie Südtirol, Attac, CGIL, CISL, Bund Alternativer, Umweltschutzgruppe, etc.). Activities aimed at promoting political education are supported with public contributions. Large-scale projects and campaigns, such as referendums and popular initiatives, are carried out with co-funding from other organizations and with their own targeted fundraising campaigns.
Autonomous Province of Bolzano - Provincial Council - I Legislative Commission. Legislative commissions are auxiliary bodies of the Provincial Council which operate on behalf of the plenary assembly; it is their task to examine the bills presented before they are dealt with in the courtroom where the text of the bill approved by the commission will be examined. In addition to the preliminary examination of the bills assigned to them, the legislative commissions present, on the matters within their competence, the reports and proposals that they deem appropriate or that have been requested of them by the Council. The commissions also have the right to formulate their own text to be submitted to the Council during the re-elaboration, coordination and integration of several bills concerning the same matter. Members of the first commission, chaired by Magdalene Amhof (SVP), councilor Josef Noggler (SVP) and councilor Brigitte Foppa (Verdi), rapporteurs of the bill on direct democracy and participation; 3 other SVP councilors, 1 councilor from Süd-Tiroler Freiheit and 1 from Die Freiheitlichen group . He financed and oversaw the governance of the participatory process and party negotiation for the drafting of the bill on direct democracy and participation. There is no data on the financial entity of the process.
Blufink is a non-profit social cooperative from Bolzano, run by two participation experts, Katharina Erlacher and Katherina Longariva. On behalf of the I Commission, he oversaw the participatory process aimed at drafting the Amhof / Foppa / Noggler bill on direct democracy.
Selection of participants
Popular initiative proposal (current procedure - lp 11/2005). The popular initiative proposal, according to the provincial law in force (lp 11/2005) is launched with the filing of the text of the bill by 3 promoters registered in the electoral lists, together with the sheets for the collection of signatures for the endorsement by part of the Secretary General (art. 2). All voters with the right to vote in the Province of Bolzano can sign for the signing of the proposal. The minimum number of 8,000 signatures to be reached is the prerequisite for the initiative to be valid (Article 1). On the occasion of initiative n ° 5 for the new law on direct democracy and participation, the promoters organized banquets and gazebos throughout the territory, with principals also at civic centers, distributing flyers and posters, as well as press releases and social networks ( link 1).
Participatory process of the 1st Commission. From October 2014 to October 26, 2016, the Legislative Commission oversees a participatory process for the elaboration of an alternative bill to the one rejected with the referendum of 2/9/2014. At first he instructs the coop. Blufink for the facilitation and care of events, developed following two approaches. It is not specified how the curator was identified, moreover, in both phases below, the information methods (notices, media) and the exact dates of the meetings are not specified.
7 public meetings in the districts of the territory (March 2015) aimed at all interested citizens with the presence of politicians. 285 participants, mostly men over sixty (69) and a few young people up to 30 (18m, 7f) (Blufink 2015a).
4 workshops of 12 hours in total with the representatives of the organizations, in Bolzano. The invitation was addressed to all representatives of civil society organizations, including party organizations, which were called to send two representatives, one of whom had to present a positive attitude towards direct democracy, the other a rather skeptical attitude. . 80 participants, coming from more than 50 organizations, both German and Italian, took up the invitation. “Against this, the very scarce presence of elected political / political representatives must be mentioned, a fact that has been noted several times with amazement and bewilderment on the part of the participants” (Blufink, 2015b, p. 4).
Methods and tools
The proposed popular initiative is an institution of democratic participation present in the Constitution and in the Statutes of the Regions. The Autonomous Province of Bolzano is also equipped with this procedure so that citizens can exercise legislative initiative. The procedure is not allowed on some issues, such as taxes. It starts with the filing of the legislative proposal and with the endorsement of the material necessary for the collection of signatures. Once collected, the signatures (in the case of Bolzano are 8,000) are deposited and the Council must assign the discussion of the proposal to the Commission. Once concluded in the Commission, the proposal passes to the examination and the vote of the Council. The process must in any case be completed within a maximum of 12 months (lp 11/2005, art. 4).
Workshop is a generic term to indicate collaborative, argumentative, dialogue or confrontation meetings, facilitated, divided into plenaries and groups. In this case they have been divided into 4 phases, with different objectives. In the first, the participants were prepared for the culture of dialogue, that is to accept the various points of view without judging and without attempting mediation. It is also about gaining awareness of desires and fears, expectations and prejudices by trying to suspend judgment, putting oneself at ease. Simulations can also be carried out to share / compare the knowledge acquired and perceived. In this case, the participants - in small groups - were asked to simulate the holding of a referendum according to the laws in force and then according to the bill proposing the popular initiative. You can focus on establishing the participants' positions on key issues. In this case the “Rooms of Change” model was used for moderation in 4 “houses” (discussion tables), trying to avoid heated discussion and to favor the understanding of the other opinion. The objective of the third workshop, managed with the Open Space method, was to elaborate points in common, bring positions closer together and develop new and integrative aspects. In the fourth and last phase, the participants were invited to read the summary prepared by the moderators on what emerged in the previous phases and to ponder the statements made by colleagues in their organization and then deepen the dialogue in one of the "houses" prepared.
Rooms of Change is an argumentation support model, devised by Claes Janssen. Its matrix "No +, No-, Yes-, Yes +" allows to frame, respectively:
- Satisfaction with the current situation: what should be maintained?
- Opposition to the current situation: what disturbs or does not satisfy?
- Doubts: what are the issues and aspects to be clarified?
- Innovations: what are the new proposals to be evaluated?
Open Space (Technology) is a method that has inspired a family of approaches, which, as in this case, leave the participants free (without external facilitator) to self-manage their topic of discussion their own method, thanks to the possibility of each move or open a different discussion in the course of work. Just like what happens next to formal conferences during the coffee break.
Deliberation, decisions and interaction with the public
Participatory process of the 1st Commission
The process is divided into two stages. A series of public meetings in the area and workshops , organized by the coop. Blufink of Bolzano. The public meetings were guided by some questions.
- How am I experiencing democracy in South Tyrol? The responses expressed "loss of confidence in politics" due to "disappointment with manipulations, scandals, lack of progress in the development of direct democracy"; we need "appropriate citizen participation tools"; “Need for values and ethics”; "Switzerland is taken as a model of democracy for the development of democracy in South Tyrol even if for many it seems unrealistic to adopt the Swiss rules of direct democracy"; on the one hand there are those who ask for more democracy and on the other those who are skeptical of direct democracy and “underline the opportunities for participation offered by representative democracy”; "There is regret that adequate education in politics is not offered at school," so there is a lack of both basic theoretical references and practical experience in the exercise of political participation "(Blufink, 2015a, p. 3). Apart from a large number of contributions in favor, there are also voices that point out that the popular consultation requires a lot of energy and information, otherwise lobbies prevail. The media should adopt more impartiality and a level playing field is needed for referendums and the role of social media has yet to be clarified. An in-depth discussion between opponents and supporters should take place before the collection of signatures. Consensus around the referendum question is fundamental (Blufink, 2015a, p.4).
- What topics do we want to vote on? The participants expressed various themes, which were divided by category: Provincial Statute, 32 (eg participatory models and processes, remuneration of politicians, budget, justice, etc.). Energy, 8. Rules for democracy, 145 (eg new law for direct democracy 57, participation before decisions 19, rules of democratic processes 26). Major projects, 82 (eg BBT 23, Airport 12, incinerator. Municipalities 31. Cultural policy 8. Family 5. Urban planning and land management 21. Agriculture 4. Vision and future 65. Economy 8. Health and social policy 13. Self-determination 9) . Examples of some contributions are: “I don't want to decide on trifles but on projects of a certain importance”; “I wish I could have my say even on the little things”; “I would like to delegate the issues I don't understand”; “The use of participation tools promotes a learning process”; “It is necessary to convey a sense of responsibility to people”; “We should be able to vote and make proposals that must be published transparently on the internet” (Ib., P. 5 - 6).
- What do we expect from the new direct democracy law? Have a say. With the referendum to have a corrective to the decisions adopted by the elected and with the initiative to have the right to autonomously advance legislative proposals (Ib., P. 7). The use must be encouraged and facilitated, low threshold for the collection of signatures and a simple method of authentication, a low or no quorum for the vote itself. The legitimacy of the decision rests with those who actually voted. Some ask for the possibility of submitting the decisions of the Executive to a referendum. Others fear a flood of consultations in the event of minimum thresholds, with the result that a minority of voters will decide for the majority of those who do not participate (Ib., P. 7). Only if you are directly interested can you formulate positions that are essential for the sustainability of the solutions. Unanimously, the principle of ensuring complete, relevant and objective information for citizens should be observed. This task could be carried out by an independent body. Voters should receive a referendum booklet (see the case of Bolzano airport) which illustrates the problem from different angles, having the same space available (Ib., P. 7). The courage to try participatory forms opens the way for a society willing to learn. Direct democracy must play a role of balance between majority and minority (Ib.).
The task of the meetings was not to find a synthesis but to report the attitudes and positions as faithfully as possible. However, a prevalence of individuals mobilized in favor of change emerged from these open meetings.
The workshop was divided into 4 phases. The first was to prepare participants for dialogue rather than debate, mutual acceptance and understanding and sharing of knowledge and the glossary. In this first phase they designed a referendum process on purpose and one abrogative. The second aimed to establish positions on the instruments of direct democracy, favoring the exchange between positions. In this phase, moderated “houses” (thematic discussion tables) with the “Rooms of change” model were formed. The third phase pushed to elaborate some points in common and favor the approach of contrasting positions and develop new aspects, leaving the participants autonomy with the Open Space method. In the last phase, the aim was to clarify and integrate what emerged in the previous phases and it was asked to evaluate / weigh the individual declarations among colleagues in the organization. Finally, everyone chose a “home” in which some aspects were explored (Blufink, 2015b, p. 5). House 1 - From the tools of direct democracy to the tools of participatory democracy. On participation , in general, the group agreed on the fact that participation models are needed and that their activation must be systematic and periodic, especially before writing laws. It also agreed on the enlargement of those entitled to participate to all residents and young minors; not only the representatives of organized interests but all those who have an interest in the issue; it is necessary to avoid that the processes are dominated by the lobists and that there is a split between two factions (polarization). There was also agreement on the need for the drafting of the law to make use of the support of experts on the subject such as Eurac (curator of the process of the Convention for Autonomy), Rete Partecipazione and Südtiroler Jugendring. On participatory processes, there was an agreement on clear (understandable to all), concise, exact communication regarding the purposes of the tools and processes, the issues and questions. The quality of the processes is given by their openness and flexibility, they can be integrated in voting before the political decision; the voting procedure should start if no agreement is reached and the results of the processes must be accepted or concretized by the Provincial Council, otherwise a mandatory referendum must be carried out (Ib., p. 8 - 9). On the discipline of participation, the group has agreed that a law on participation should be enacted to regulate both direct democracy and deliberative democracy; direct democracy must play the role of guarantor of participatory processes; the processes must be used both independently and as enrichment in conjunction with direct democracy. There is also agreement that a local and independent technical reference body should be set up for participation, on the model of the Büro für Zukunftsfragen in Vorarlberg (Austria). This body can provide information, training, specific advice, technical expertise. However, this too remains agreed, that there must be a right of initiative for civil society, while participatory processes must be initiated starting from a certain volume of investment or on behalf of certain citizens to whom their financing must in any case be ensured (Ib ., p. 9). House 2 - Commission for the assessment of eligibility (role and composition); exclusion of themes, tools of direct democracy. On the question of the admissibility assessment committee, it was agreed that members should have technical and legal training, be neutral, be impartial. The number ranges from 3 to 5. On the role of the commission, some believed that it should assess the compliance of the proposals with the Italian Constitution and EU directives, while others believed that this was the duty of the court. There was agreement that, despite the loss of neutrality, an advisory body would be of primary importance because it would save resources. Therefore, the commission has agreed to immediately verify that the contents of the proposal do not contain topics excluded by the law (Ib., P. 11).
The instruments of direct democracy provided for by the new design, in addition to those provided for by the lp 11/2005 and 10/2002 (popular initiative, abrogative, proactive, consultative, confirmatory referendum), are the petition, the municipal initiative and the referendum in parts of the province. It was agreed that in the new law there were: the referendum on purpose, abrogative and confirmatory and the proposed popular initiative.
On the issues it was agreed that all the issues within the competence of the Council could also be the subject of participation, apart from the protection of minorities and human rights, as well as tax laws.
House 3 - Promoters, barrier of signatures, quorum of participation, times for collecting signatures, binding terms, voting dates and involvement of the Provincial Council
It was agreed on the promoters that 20 are sufficient to submit the referendum request. There is agreement on the terms that they cannot be carried out 6 months before the provincial elections and that the collection of signatures can begin only one month after the elections (Ib., P. 14). In addition, 4 fixed dates must be foreseen.
Everyone agrees that the collection of signatures must be digitized and facilitated, it must not be an artificial barrier and the number of signatures must be adequate for the plenary mandate at the last election. For consultative referendums, the number of signatures must be lower. A debate follows with arguments for and against on the weighting of the threshold or its lightening. As in Switzerland, there is agreement that the Council can put a counter-proposal to the request of the promoters to the vote.
Quorum is perhaps the hottest issue of all issues. In fact, an agreement was not reached but an approach. There are two extremes, Quorum zero : 4 participants argue that the barrier concerns the number of signatures and those who do not vote delegate those who vote to decide for him; and Quorum 40% of participants : 3 participants believe that it is as good as it is now, it is more sustainable and representative democracy is justified (Ib., p. 15). In between are the compromise solutions that propose a quorum of 20, 25, 30%.
Those who defend a high quorum believe that it defends the right of the citizen to delegate complex questions to elected experts and provides an incentive for the responsibility of the promoters to bring the relevant requests for the population to the vote, stressing that direct democracy must be "a corrective" and not a substitute for the representative.
Those who defend a low quorum believe that it should not prevent the possibility of a referendum from being enforceable, as history teaches. Abstention is also equated with a vote. It encourages and solicits the participation of the population in political decisions, according to the literature - it is said - the lower the quorum, the higher the political participation. In addition, with low quorums, people who have been intensely dedicated to the issue decide.
According to some, the signature barrier and the quorum are counterweights that balance each other. According to others, they are independent. The first guarantees that there is a sufficient number of citizens interested in the subject, while the quorum only prevents the validity of the referendum.
On the information they all agree that it is complete, clear, brief and understandable, it must not polarize, be differentiated by category, it must be transmitted on different channels, public events must take place with pros and cons financially supported. Furthermore, the law must provide sufficient financial means to adequately inform and organize the process. In addition, a budget must be made available for awareness-raising work, political training in the province, in schools, etc. The pros and cons must be reported on the voting booklet and the team that draws it up must be made up of members of the council and be equally composed of promoters and opponents (Ib., P. 17). On transparency there is broad agreement on the mandatory publication of the parties' financial sources, advertising costs, the creation of a mechanism that sets a maximum spending limit, there must be no interference up to 48 hours before the vote and so on, various considerations similar to the previous process (Ib.).
The involvement of experts and the mediation of the Commission . It is not known how the process carried out so far has progressed. We know that the Amhof / Foppa / Noggler working group has carried out another round of consultations regarding the issues still open to reach the final draft presented in public meetings in the districts with the presence of experts seeking a mediation between the various positions. In the illustrative report of the Dlp (Council, 2016) the drafters highlight that it "represents as a whole an attempt at mediation: between the different expectations of the various components of society, between those of politics and the population as well as between those of the majority and minority policy. As such, it therefore expresses and reflects this multiplicity of interests and is probably the demonstration of the fact that democratic innovations can be conceived and implemented ”.
The 2017 popular initiative and participatory innovation - The two proposals of the popular initiative compared
The mediation - or "compromise" as defined by the promoters of the initiative for more democracy - resulting in the DLP was initially accepted, but subsequently, given the delays and persistent obstruction shown in the Council by the SVP, the promoters resorted to a further initiative popular (No. 5) by adding a second “improved” law proposal (Initiative, 2016) to exercise pressure from citizens with determination so that at least the Dlp A / F / N was approved.
The different positions of the parties also emerge from the comparison between the two proposals. First of all, a chapter dedicated to participatory democracy, participatory processes - Council of Citizens and Citizens had not been introduced in the initiatives prior to 2015. Probably the inclusion of a Head of law, dedicated to participatory democracy was also stimulated by the experiences that they were held in those years (Agreement for Autonomy), by the local presence of new skills and professionalism (Eurac, Blufink, etc.) and by the participatory process itself activated by the Commission to draw up the Dlp. This would be a democratic innovation similar in logic to the regional laws on participation of Tuscany (69/2007, 46/2013) and Emilia-Romagna (3/2010). It would essentially consist of a Council of citizens, of at least 12 (Dlp A / F / N) persons over 16, registered in the appropriate list (Article 22). The selection procedure would take place through a stratified sampling according to linguistic group, gender and age. It can be requested by institutional bodies or by at least 300 citizens. It elaborates unanimously shared ideas and recommendations on a specific problem within 1, 5 days, and presents them in a joint and shared declaration (art.22). It will be followed by a public event in which the results will be presented (art. 23). The joint declaration and the report of the public event converge in a report that is sent to the presidential office of the Provincial Council which in turn will send it to the Executive or to the Council according to the competence (art. 25). These bodies will have to deal with the relationship within 60 days; promoters, participants and all citizens will be adequately informed of the results (art. 25). The whole procedure will be handled by a new office (a technical third party figure): Office for political formation and participation (art. 26). It will also have the task of strengthening political training and civic education of the population, supporting participatory processes and referendums, informing them, offering advice to promoters and monitoring processes, promoting training courses and coaching services on politics, participation and direct democracy; build supra-regional networks in these fields (art. 26). In the version modified by the promoters of the initiative, specific changes or clarifications are made to this system on the times: the process of the Citizens' Council must last a maximum of 6 months (Article 20); it can be requested by 200 citizens instead of 300 (art. 21) or even by associations and companies; it must be composed of 20 people (art. 22), elaborates its joint declaration in a period of 10 days - instead of 1-5 days -; and the competent institutional bodies will have to process the report within 15 days instead of 60 (art. 25). Furthermore, they would like participants who are not public employees to be paid an allowance of 200 Euros per day: an aspect not present in the DLP A / F / N.
Referendum and popular initiative
Limits on content. Dlp A / F / N imposes certain limits on the contents of referendum proposals, including the rules concerning the internal regulation of the Council, tax and budget laws, those guaranteeing the rights of linguistic groups (historic South Tyrolean problem), minorities ethnic and social. The disagreement is on the rules concerning the staff and organs of the Province that the promoters would not want to exclude from the referendum proposals.
Verification of eligibility by the Referendum Commission . According to the promoters, the Referendum Commission should not express itself on the compliance of the request with the provisions of the Constitution, the Special Statute and the limitations resulting from the Community legal order and international obligations (Article 8) but only on the provincial competence of the matter subject to the referendum. (Initiative, 2016).
Validity of the referendum, the quorum . According to the Dlp A / F / N, the outcome of the referendums, apart from the consultative which has no quorum, is valid if at least 25% of those entitled to participate in the vote (Article 12). According to the promoters, the quorum should be reduced to 15% (Initiative, 2016).
Suspension and consultations on Council resolutions . On resolutions of a certain entity (for investments of 0.5% of the budget or for current expenditure of 0.5% of the budget), in the provisional period of 15 days after publication, 200 citizens can submit a request for suspension (art . 14). If the referendum commission deems the request admissible, the resolution is suspended for 6 months. During this period, citizens can request a consultative referendum by collecting 8,000 signatures or 2,000 to call a Citizens' Council. Subsequently, the Board must issue the resolution again within the term of 6 months (Article 14). According to the promoters of the popular initiative, the resolutions of the Giunta should come into force after 30 days instead of 15. Furthermore, the signatures to be collected for a consultative referendum should be 5,000 while if you opt for the Citizens' Council this - considering the 200 signatures already collected - should be convened without collecting further subscriptions (Initiative, 2016).
Assumptions of the popular initiative. According to Dlp A / F / N it is exercised by at least 8,000 voters (art. 15). For promoters, this quota should be reduced to 2,500 voters (Initiative, 2016). A not marginal modification concerns the custom of reporting in each sheet containing the signatures of the subscribers, the whole text of the bill (art. 16, c. 3). According to the promoters, this guarantee is presented as an obstacle that does not facilitate the collection of signatures. Therefore they ask that the sheets contain the declaration that the undersigned has read the text of the law (Initiative, 2016).
Influence, results and effects
If the efforts of many South Tyrolean citizens and politicians (remember the Green Group but also the President Amhof and the SVP Councilor Noggler), to finally see the approval of a law that they have been asking for for some time (more than twenty years), have influenced or obtained tangible effects up to now, can be ascertained by the laws currently in force (11/2005) on the regulation of referendums and popular initiative. It can then be ascertained:
- from the high participation in the referendum of popular initiative of 2009, which narrowly missed the quorum of 40%;
- the success obtained with the popular rejection in 2014 of the SVP direct democracy reform law;
- the important results achieved since then: such as the experimentation of the information referendum brochure distributed before the referendum on the Bolzano airport in 2015;
- from the ability to share a path with the reference political offices (Commission I) by translating an inclusive, dialogic and collaborative process into a mediation for the construction of a shared bill, from which a further participatory democratic innovation will emerge (the Council citizens);
- the further expansion of the representativeness of that result, the A / F / N law proposal and the Initiative proposal, with presentations in the districts and debates with experts and organizations and above all the fifth popular initiative promoted with the collection campaign of over 11,000 signatures.
The suspense remains high on the definitive results that the last initiative will obtain in the Council, by October 2018.
Analysis and lessons learned
Here we dealt with the history of a civil, peaceful movement, promoter and animator of practicable and consistent democratic values, ideas, innovations, which guarantee an effective transfer of responsibility (empowerment) to citizens. The reference model, as emerges from the promoters' events, is the one present in the Swiss legal system. The main innovations are a referendum and popular initiative with a low access threshold with zero or very low quorum, and provisions for widespread, concise but complete, and equal information (see referendum brochure used in the case of the referendum on Bolzano airport in 2016) . Surprises were born from the mediation. A further innovation resulting from this historical movement / process has materialized in the latest bill on direct democracy and participatory democracy: the Council of Citizens and Citizens and the Office for Political Participation and Training. Two institutes that, if approved, would open up a profitable field for experimenting with promising democratic innovations. However, there are negligence in the transparency of the participatory process edited by Blufink and the 1st Commission, in relation to the non-publication of the financial entity of the process and of the reports relating to the final mediation stage.
Finally, the expedient of presenting two bills together, adopted by the initiative for more democracy, should be highlighted, when the threat for the mediated bill A / F / N is perceived, of being once again delayed or distorted by the dominant current within the SVP. The purpose of this expedient responds to the attempt to obtain any improvements from the compromise proposal that emerged from the participatory process, giving the SVP the possibility to save face and come out 'rehabilitated', after the heavy defeats, giving a signal of change to the citizens. . The other goal is, at least, not to suffer other detrimental changes to the Amhof / Foppa / Noggler (A / F / N) proposal, since if that were the case, the SVP leadership would in turn be grossly discredited.
Blufink (2015a), How do you imagine democracy in South Tyrol, What role should citizens have in the democracy of our province? Documentation, ed. Council of the Province of Bolzano> http://www.consiglio-bz.org/download/Impulse_Zivilgesellschaft_2015_it.pdf (release 7/2/18).
Blufink (2015b), Towards a new law on direct democracy, Council of the Province of Bolzano, April> http://www.consiglio-bz.org/download/definitives-Dokument_2015_it.pdf (ril. 7/2/18).
Council (2016), of the Province of Bolzano, Provincial Bill (Amhof, Foppa, Noggler), Direct Democracy, Participation and Political Training> http://www.consiglio-bz.org/download/Gesetzentwurft_direkte-Demokratie_11-2016. pdf (release 8/2/18).
Initiative (2016) for more democracy, Provincial bill, (improved version of Dlp A / F / N), Direct democracy, participation and political formation> http://www.consiglio-bz.org/download/Gesetzentwurft_direkte-Demokratie_11 -2016.pdf (release 8/2/18).
- Initiative for more democracy - http://www.dirdemdi.org/index.php/it/ (ril. 7/2/18).
 Interview released by councilor Brigitte Foppa via FB (23/2/18).
 More Democracy Initiative, Amhof, Foppa and Noggler Award - SVP now take its compromise seriously! > http://www.dirdemdi.org/index.php/it/703-onorificenza-per-amhof-foppa-e-noggler-la-svp-prenda-ora-sul-serio-il-proprio-compromesso (ril . 7/2/18).
 Rethinking democracy - International Congress, 26/10/2017> http://www.dirdemdi.org/index.php/it/717-congresso-internationale-bolzano-refensare-la-democrazia (ril. 6 / 2/18).
 Bolzano. Direct democracy, skip dealing with bills, divisions in Svp, BS Buongiorno Süd-Tirol, 12/1/2018> https://www.buongiornosuedtirol.it/2018/01/bolzano-democrazia-diretta-salta-trattazione-disegni -of-law-divisions-in-svp / (release 6/2/18).
 Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Provincial Council, Legislative Commissions> http://www.consiglio-bz.org/it/organi/commissioni-legislative.asp (ril. 6/2/18).
 The explanatory report on the Provincial Council website is only in German, this quote is taken from: Initiative for more democracy, Explanatory report on the DLP, direct democracy, participation and political formation - improved version> http: //www.dirdemdi .org / images / de / pdf / Begleitbericht_vV_zweisprachig_25042017.pdf (release 8/2/18).