The party is an initiative of a number of former UM students, civil servants and entrepreneurs. According to one of its founders, Rik Wagemans, M:OED is “a party for every citizen of Maastricht: young, old, born in Maastricht or elsewhere”. Nevertheless, the party seems to focus mainly on students and young professionals. Creating opportunities for young entrepreneurs, putting Maastricht on the map as an innovative knowledge city, and a milder housing policy are major issues in their party manifesto.
By far the most important role in their programme is set aside for a radical change of local politics; this should become more transparent, a vital condition for generating more trust and involvement. “It is time for a new generation of politicians. The time when the politician sat tucked away in a corner with a typewriter and lamp writing idealistic and inspiring pieces, has gone,” says Wagemans. Citizens of today, according to M:OED, are no longer satisfied with just casting a vote. They also want to have a say when there are no elections and stay abreast of the political process.
This requires a digitalisation of politics, M:OED believes. It was the main topic of the meeting in the Muziekgieterij last Thursday evening. About fifty visitors attended the party’s debut. UM professor Arjan Schakel and two Brightlands blockchain experts, Vince Meens and Bas Heeringa, discussed among themselves and with the audience what blockchain - the technology behind Bitcoin - could mean for democracy.
“How can we trust blockchain, if we don't understand how it works?” the audience asked. According to Heeringa, “you need one and a half hours to explain exactly how it works. What you need to know, is that it makes every process completely transparent, because everyone in the system has access to all information at any time. It is completely decentralised; so, there is no single institution that possesses and monitors all the data.”
The panel expects that digitalisation will make citizens more involved. Meens: “People are more idealistic than ever before, but fewer people vote. This is because the present voting process is too slow. When you vote, you don’t see the results until much later. With blockchain, there is a constant feedback cycle. Then, for example, you can see exactly where every euro of your taxpayer’s money is going.” Heeringa: “Exactly what today’s citizens need.”
Where Schakel is afraid that in particular technical and wealthy people will benefit from the technology, the two Brightlands experts see opportunities for entrepreneurs, but also for politics. Meens: “I predict that in the future, there will be a kind of digital, layered democracy in which people vote for different representatives for different subjects.”