Parliamentary transparency

A parliamentarian’s voting record can be a few clicks away

Parliamentary  transparency


ccess to information is the key to keep the democracy going. In casting their ballots, the voters entrust their representatives with the mantle of their hopes and concerns. However, most voters are not aware of the legislative performance of their representatives.

A great leap towards civic engagement and accountability of representative legislators can be made through the introduction of e-parliament. An e-parliament system gives all internet users a direct line to the legislative records. The voters then get to know if their representatives are echoing their voices in the legislators.

This platform can carry information about the number of sessions attended by each parliamentarian; the bills they have introduced, supported or opposed; their stance on various issues; and their participation in parliamentary committees. Every concerned citizen can then act as a vigilant guardian of their rights.

The nuances of parliamentary proceedings can often seem labyrinthine to the most citizens. However, an e-parliament system can simplify the complex and provide a straightforward narrative. Through this system, the data becomes a story — the story of a representative’s commitment and action.

This narrative can empower voters at the next polls, enabling them to decide who deserves their vote based on legislative performance.

Such a system can also have local language interfaces and a user-friendly design; it does not have to be an exclusive club for the tech-savvy or the elite. It should be seen as a platform for all Pakistanis, irrespective of their socio-economic status.

Putting this into practice can be a monumental leap in establishing a digitally empowered society.

This isn’t entirely uncharted territory. TheyWorkForYou system of the United Kingdom is a stellar example of turning parliamentary data into digestible, personalised updates. European Union’s ParlTrack works similarly. South Korea’s e-People portal has been a pioneering platform for citizens to suggest policy ideas directly to the government. These are not mere tools. The systems are testaments to the fact that an informed electorate is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy.

The core issue here is not just keeping tabs on parliamentary attendance or counting votes. It is fostering a culture where voters hold their representatives accountable by weighing their performance against their promises. It’s about ensuring that the elected leaders do not drift away from the electors’ vision.

An e-parliament system can turn the status and progress of every bill and resolution, every committee session and every vote into an open book. An informed populace can then evolve into an engaged populace.

Through this system, the data becomes the story of a representative’s commitment. The narrative can empower voters at the next polls, enabling them to decide who deserves their vote based on legislative performance. 

Many citizens who feel disconnected from the national dialogue can find themselves at the heart of it through an e-parliament system. The public can clearly see their concerns reflected in the actions of their representatives take or note the lack thereof and push for change.

Pakistan’s political landscape is ripe for such an initiative. An e-parliament system can provide a steady beacon of accountability.

It can be a step towards ending the opacity that has long characterieed our parliamentary processes. By enlightening voters this will encourage the legislators to be more diligent as their actions will no longer be confined to the echo chambers of parliamentary halls.

However, the implementation of an e-parliament system will require a significant commitment. The transition is not just a matter of installing a few servers or setting up websites. It involves a paradigm shift in how politics is conducted and perceived in the country.

It will require training for parliamentary staff, educating the masses on the use of the platform and ensuring that the system keeps evolving, adapting to the changing needs of the populace and the dynamics of the political arena.

It is crucial to remember that technology is a tool, not a panacea. The effectiveness of an e-parliament system will hinge on the collective will of the legislators to engage transparently with the citizens and the will of the citizens to participate.

The grand vision of an e-parliament is grounded in a fundamental truth: democracy thrives in daylight. It is strengthened not by silences but by participating voices, questions and scrutiny.

The e-parliament idea isn’t just about the present; it’s about laying the groundwork for a future where the voter’s voices are amplified, and scrutiny of the lawmakers’ performance is a constant. The initiative can be the thread that binds the will of the people to the work of the parliament.

An e-parliament system represents the promise of a symphony in which every citizen is a contributing musician. A nation informed is a nation transformed.

The writers are associated with the Bahria Business School and Sustainable Development Policy Institute’s Centre for Private Sector Engagement. They can be reached on X using @ahadnazir783. The article doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the organisations.

Parliamentary transparency