Soul liberty, the core of rule of law and human rights
 World Evangelical Alliance Liaison Office Geneva  

Citizenship

1.       Citizens share with governments the responsibility to uphold a just political community.

2.       Responsible citizenship includes not only abiding by the law, paying taxes, and enjoying the benefits of law-abiding behavior, but also helping to shape the political community to conform to the demands of justice.

3.       Citizens should thus be able to exercise their influence by means of the media and other independent organizations, such as think tanks, lobbying organizations, and advocacy groups. Freedoms of speech and association are necessary civil rights since they are means by which citizens exercise individual and organized influence in society.

4.       For citizens to exercise effective influence on government, they must have adequate representation in government through elections to legislative assemblies and executive offices.

5.       The aim of periodic elections should be to place representatives of the people in government offices. Elections to legislative bodies are not acts of governing, but acts of gaining representation in government. A healthy electoral system is one in which those elected are put forward and held accountable by the people they represent. Elected officials should not be beholden to powerful interest groups or the wealthy, ahead of the body of citizens they represent.

6.       It is essential to the civic health of a republic that the electoral system ensures adequate representation possible for all citizens.

Implications

1.       The electoral system should aim to prevent the sense of powerlessness or meaninglessness that many citizens feel about elections and politics in general. Many republics have a weakened, declining system of citizen participation. This can be monitored to the percentage of eligible voters who choose to vote in elections; when national political parties do very little to train, discipline, or hold accountable the candidates of their parties; and when interest groups exercise more influence over individual representatives than do the people those elected officials represent.

2.       Citizens should not mistake the right to express political opinions through interest groups and the media for the right to exercise influence in and through elected representatives. Real political influence requires a voice in government through those whom voters truly want as their representatives. Only an electoral system that allows for adequate representation of all organized voices can do justice to citizens in a democracy.

3.       A healthy electoral system is to have a House of Representatives elected by Proportional Representation (PR). This would help create national political parties; give both minority and majority voices representation in parliament, in proportion to the number of votes they receive; make members of parliament more accountable to those who elect them; and substantially increase citizen participation and voter turnout, thus increasing citizen confidence in government.