A group of twenty and thirty somethings are getting ready to take on a bloated, corrupt power structure in the 2015 Argentina elections. Their tools are not the tools which have been used in South America’s second largest country before. Instead of bribery, coercion, murder and intimidation, this group brings the Internet to elections.
The Net Party (Partido de la Red) is a new party that is tunneling into Argentine politics. Using free software that members have developed, the group is prepared to launch a tech-enabled frontal attack on “old school” politics. The momentum of their party has started, the challenge is to see if it can be maintained.
The Net Party is not officially recognized in Argentina, but their impact of their party is being felt. During their participation in the October 2013 election process, “candidates” from the Net Party cleared over 22,000 votes. Argentina has seen many changes since that election, none of them good.
Consumer prices have vaulted, police officers have gone on strike triggering wide spread looting and that was just the beginning. Over the summer, record breaking temperatures created water and power outages, leaving many Portenos without power for as long as four weeks during the recent holiday season. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner disappeared for more than five weeks while her finance hit-squad decided to devalue the Peso by 13 percent. Argentina has had a rough summer.
Morale in the land of tango is at an all-time low. As many as 75 percent of the population are fed up with the current administration and the policies are leading down a dead end. Transparency International estimates that 77 percent are tired of the political bribes and open corruption. People are feeling powerless and this is fueling The Net Party.
At the center of the group’s platform is open-source software which they produced from the start. DemocraciaOS is a user-friendly tool which allows for open voting and debating and is designed for political parties and various parliaments. The user can review digests as well as breakdowns on debates on each law currently being argued in the Buenos Aires City Legislature (CABA). The user can then vote each law and proposal up or down or simply sit out the vote. The Net Party, once it begins getting seats in the legislature, will commit to always voting in accordance with the DemocraciaOS user-based consensus.
Comparing themselves to hackers, the groups denies charges of being “anti-system.” Instead, they want to strive to understand the current system and build on it. Working to integrate what is right with the existing system and repairing what needs fixing is what is so radical about bringing an open democracy to a corrupt leadership.
Santiago Siri, the front man for The Net Party, says, “At days end, politics is about system building. What we have now is an outdated democracy.” Siri is correct in his assessment. The democracy that stated in 1983 got derailed somewhere. Flaws in the system have been found and taken advantage of, back channel negotiations opened and corruption allowed to take root. It doesn’t require a rocket scientist to understand that the Argentine government is cancerous, a malignant tumor.
There are roadblocks to The Net Party’s success besides the corruption of current parties and politicians. Only 70 percent of the population living in Buenos Aires has internet access and this drops to 50 percent when the whole country is considered. Latin America is somewhere between five and ten years behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology. Argentina missed the 70s. While the wave of revolution was sweeping Brazil and much of South America, Argentina’s generation was killed off by the military junta that thrived in the during the decade. The people that should be 45 to 55 years old and active politically were “disappeared.”
While the established powers inside Argentina have been slow to understand the part that the internet can play in national politics, other leaders have been a little more enlightened. Jorge Soto, deputy director of digital strategy in Mexico is exploring with DemocraciaOS to see how to put a Mexican version in place.
“Our president pretends she has all the answers,” says Siri. “We’re a generation that understands her sort of maternalistic authority is a fallacy.” With increased openness becoming available to Argentina, the years of inefficiency and outright corruption may be coming to an end thanks to The Red Party.
By Jerry Nelson