The Liquid Democracy Journal
on electronic participation, collective moderation, and voting systems
Issue 2
2014-10-07

Liquid Democracy Provides No Alternative to the Republic

by Andreas Nitsche, German version published on April 17, 2013 other format: text version (UTF-8)

This is an English translation of a German blog post that was published by Andreas Nitsche at http://liquidfeedback.org/2013/04/17/liquid-democracy-ist-keine-alternative-zur-parlamentarischen-republik/ on April 17, 2013.


Liquid Democracy as an organizational concept combines elements of direct and representative democracy. Anyone can select their own way ranging from direct democracy to representative democracy by participating in what one is interested in while giving their vote to somebody acting in their interest for all other areas. Using the concept of Liquid Democracy, people can have their interests represented regardless of their ability to spend time or effort on a particular issue. In return, people are not urged to decide on issues where they lack expertise. This way, Liquid Democracy can be scaled up as opposed to direct democracy.

Liquid Democracy, however, can only be successfully practiced using computers. This means secret voting is not possible.[1] Therefore Liquid Democracy comes with a price: The vote of every participant is recorded and therefore documented. As far as representatives are concerned, accountability is desired. Liquid Democracy, however, doesn’t differentiate between voters and representatives. A Liquid Democracy society would need to treat every citizen like a representative in the existing parliamentary systems. Furthermore, the system of checks and balances would need to be completely readjusted.

It would be irresponsible to give up secret elections – a security mechanism to ensure free elections and protect democracy. This is why we do not endorse calls for replacing representative democracy with Liquid Democracy and conclude: Liquid Democracy provides no alternative to the parliamentary constitutional republic, the presidential republic or the parliamentary constitutional monarchy for that matter. It may be used in civic participation as an additional communication channel between citizens and their administration, or in constituency participation for better connecting representatives to their electoral district.[2]

The real potential, however, is revolutionizing decision-making within political parties and thus changing the course of politics. Political parties usually unite citizens interested in politics on a voluntary basis and have some freedom in organizing their decision-making.[3] All decisions in a Liquid Democracy party will either be made by recorded vote or – where required – by casting secret votes outside the Liquid Democracy system. Any attempt to simulate secret voting using pseudonyms or cryptography constitutes an attack against both secrecy and verifiability of the voting process.[4]

Liquid Democracy parties could become very attractive to citizens; empowering the ordinary members would make these parties more responsive to the demands of society. It would also be an invitation to join a given party. These parties will still compete against parties using other organizational structures and need to convince the general public in secret(!) elections.