Municipality as the Object of Local Democracy Functioning

Saulius Nefas

Abstract


The article discusses the fact that one of the most important problems in the contradictory democracy creation process is finding ways to reinforce the participation of society members in democratic processes that take place in municipalities. With the decrease of citizen participation in one of the main democracy consolidation measures— in elections—a serious problem arises not only in government legitimization, but also in democracy and citizenship of society itself. The use of other forms of citizen participation in municipalities can and must compensate the deficit of democracy in the country.
The problem lies in the perception of democracy, and the perception will improve if we see democracy functioning in a specific sphere of public life or activity, in this case—in municipalities.
The aim of the article is to assess how certain instruments function in Lithuanian municipalities based on the latest trends of democracy expression in democratic countries. The object is the local instruments of democracy in municipalities. For this aim and this object the following research methods were used: analysis of scientific literature and empiricalexperimentalresearch. The article is relevant for scientists who will be able to discuss theproposed insights and for practitioners, first of all, municipality politicians, employees of administrations, and active citizens who will be able to develop local democracy more systematically based on given theoretical insights and data from the empirical research. The theoretical part of this article is based on the insights of British professor Colin Crouch. Crouch analyses data from research of Local Democracy 2009 performed by scientists from Mykolas Romeris University and Kaunas University of Technology that reveal certain trends of local democracy in Lithuanian municipalities.
We can draw the conclusion that in Lithuania, which parted with totalitarianism only two decades ago, the wish of the political elite to identify with democracy processes that take place in the old democratic countries is noticeable, therefore, talks about democracy are a prevalent, but not an instrumental approach, i.e., discussions about important actions that would lead to the increase of democracy. Consequently, the gap between ordinary citizen and political elite attitudes towards democracy is increasing.
The research revealed that a considerable part of the heads of Lithuanian municipalities is not prone to verifying the functioning of instruments of democracy with the use of research.
The answers of participants in the research Local Democracy 2009 demonstrate that they do not tend to idealize local democratic processes that take place in municipalities, and the fact that opinions of three expert groups on almost all main issues of local democracy functioning in municipalities are different shows a lack of systemic work in the development of local instruments of democracy in municipalities.

Keywords


democracy; local democracy; local government

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"Societal studies" ISSN online 2029-2244 / ISSN print 2029-2236