Amateur legislators with internet connections and good Portuguese are invited to draft Portugal a new constitution, as part of a new experiment encouraging Web users to edit the document as if it were a Wikipedia entry. Some Portugese officials think Israel could benefit from the same scheme.

The initiative, called Constituicao 2.0, was announced last Saturday by the Institute for Portuguese Democracy, a Lisbon-based political, nonpartisan think tank that uses interactive activities to increase people's involvement in government.

Constituicao 2.0 is edited by readers like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. It runs on the same platform. So far, users have made 24 "amendments" to the the non-official document.

Much like Israel, the government in Portugal "suffers from popular indifference and lack of involvement in the political process, brought on by distrust of politicians," says Leonardo de Melo Goncalves, the Institute's internet strategy.

Seeking a fresh start, Constituicao 2.0 did not start with Portugal's "overly-detailed and quickly outdated" constitution. Instead, organizers opted to "start from scratch."

Interactive editing

This tactic may have to be repeated if the project is ever tried in Israel - which has no constitution to begin with. Fernando Ferreira da Silva, cultural attache at the Portuguese embassy in Tel Aviv, believes this would be a good endeavor.

"The initiative is very interesting and enables wider participation in the discussion about a new constitution," he said. "An identical initiative in Israel may be able to contribute to the debate on the need for a constitution."

Alongside editing the new interactive constitution, users are encouraged to debate and discuss the goal in a blog maintained by the Institute.

The Institute is run by eight public figures and has dozens of contributors, including ex-generals and scholars.

Goncalves, 24, says most users find Constituicao 2.0 through social networks such as Facebook, where he tries to give the organization and the experiment a strong presence.

The initiative has attracted interest from local and international media, as well as bloggers around the world.

Last week, the Institute was contacted by a blogger from Indonesia who translated the document through Google's online translator and wanted to know more about it.