I met Mike Gravel and Michael Grant at the First Direct Democracy Congress in Aarau, Switzerland, Oct. 2008. Later that year I contacted them with request to issue a formal invitation on behalf of Democracy Foundation so as I could apply for a Fulbright Scholarship. It was a special type of scholarship just created to allow practitioners from the NGO sector to research issues of civil society. One scholarship per year. Actually the scholarship was a joint program between Fulbright and the CEE Trust (a private foundation making grants to NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe aiming at the development of civil society in this part of the world), whose headquarters are in Warsaw, Poland. I barely hoped that my application will be okayed. First because in my country most of the contests/ competitions/biddings are pre-fixed (Bulgaria is the most corrupt country in the EU according to the Transparency International surveys) and second because my topic – referendums, popular initiative and recall, has been never liked by reps of the establishment. And I am talking out of experience. I submitted the invitation and the other papers they required as well as a 5-page project proposal and then went to an interview. Finally I won. Still cannot bellieve it.
DEMOCRACY BY POPULAR INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM.
Empowering Civil Society in Bulgaria for Direct Decision-Making Based on Initiative-Referendum Practice from the USA
See attachment (below)
My activites in the US so far
I have been doing more or less the things mentioned in chapter "Objectives" of my Project. Have been reading in the Library of Congress. Have talked to a couple of people and NGOs (CitizensInCharge and FairVote). I am preparing a general overview of the US legal framework and practice of I&R.
As for stories I will probably tell the story of Prep 13, the Recall of Grey Davis, have already written up something about a South Dacota referendum on abortion. I am very interested in the genesis of direct-decision making as a way to counter political corruption and monopoly in the various states. I believe from what I have read that the situation in the US (West of Mississippi) 100 years ago resembled in many aspects the economic and political situation in Bulgaria nowadays. Another thing of special interest to me is the latest trend of limitting office terms through popular initiative ( an example of how direct democracy can serve as checks and balances and improve? representative democracy)
Otherwise (socially): I have joined a local choir – the Washington International Chorus, I have participated in a rally for HIV housing, a rally against the Afganistan war, where Mike Gravel was one of the major speakers.
Daniela Bozhinova – Chairperson of the Bulgarian Association for the Promotion of Citizens Initiative, a non-profit organization, based in the Black Sea region of Bulgaria aspiring for the establishment of direct decision-making mechanisms in the constitutional design of her country, which on joining the European Union was believed to be the poorest and most corrupt European country and the only one in the last couple of enlargements which did not put accession to the EU to the popular vote. Developed and managed the implementation of 30+ projects, advocacy and information campaigns addressing issues of freedom of information, environmental rights, gender democracy and right of self-governance in Bulgaria and the Balkans. One of the organizers of the local referendums (2008-2009) in the Bulgarian Black Sea municipalities against a Russian oil pipeline project (Bourgas-Alexandroupolis crude oil pipeline ). Coordinated the European Citizens Initiative campaign in Bulgaria. Free-lance writer. Author of „Highlights of the European Constitution“, „Alphabetical Facts about Referendum“. Currently doing research on "Referendums, recalls and popular initiative – lessons learnt from the US" as a Fulbright scholar, hosted by the Democracy Foundation. Writing a book – "The Referendums" which will hopefully come out by the end of the current year and will be the first to present to the Bulgarian voter and taxpayer the possibility of having a direct and final say on substantial matters affecting their lives and enlighten them on other countries’ usage of direct democracy.