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Abstract

Political participation essentially describes opportunities of private citizens to affect the decision-making processes within different spheres of social life. From the citizens' perspective, the demand for greater political participation is usually related to the expectation of being able to influence the decisions taken by the government or the administrative systems more effectively (Fuchs, GuidoRossi, & Svensson, 1998, p. 324). Recently, this idea also became applifable to the new digital, interactive practices which have formed on the basis of the new computer or electronic networks. The realization of participatory potentials of new computer technologies is often presented and expected in the “images of electronic democracy” as a more direct democratic model (Barber, 1984; Budge, 1996; Grossman, 1995). In general, the more direct forms of democracy presuppose that a) computer technology is easy to use, accessible to all and interactive; b) that the usage of technology enriches a “good citizen” and that c) with the help of technology more active involvement in the decision-making process develops. This paper seeks to explain the main obstacles which discourage Internet users from more direct involvement in political life and to explore the possibilities for the revitalization of more interactive, more open political engagement. Computer-mediated communication is an excellent starting point for expanding and strengthening participation in political processes, but the solution is not in technology, as the reason for mostly negative answers to such dilemmas are not questions of “technological inadequacy”. The problems and obstacles lie primarily in the politics that stimulate the use of technological potentials.