The Youth Parliament of Belgium proposes sortition-based government

Commenter ee calls attention to the following.

The Youth Parliament of Belgium is a yearly conference of French-speaking youth in Belgium which is organized by the Parliament of the French Community in Belgium. Every year the Youth Parliament discusses four decrees that are proposed by four “ministers”. The Parliament decides whether to adopt or reject each of the decrees.

The 2013 Youth Parliament adopted a decree titled “Décret visant à réformer l’exercice du pouvoir des citoyens, de leurs assemblées et de leur gouvernement” (“Decree to reform the exercise of power of citizens, their assemblies and their government”), which, if I understand correctly, was authored by Pierre-Yves Ryckaert, a political activist.

The decree opens so (automated translation with my touch-ups):

After more than two hundred years of the representative parliamentary system, one thing is clear: this system which is supposed to derive its legitimacy from the consent of voters appears to create a structural and insidious monopolization of power by a class of professional politicians. The elite politician created by elections is bound to be limited to short-term policies, in a context where they are no longer sufficient to cope with the challenges of tomorrow. This led some citizens and elected officials to question the foundations of this system.

This draft decree addresses the very legitimacy of representative parliamentary system and its tool: the election. For if on a small scale the election seems indeed to be a legitimate tool of democratic expression, large-scale election becomes its antithesis. Why? Because two essential preconditions for democracy disappear. On the one hand, it is virtually impossible for most people to stand up for election and, on the other hand, it is difficult to really know the qualities and intentions of the candidates without knowing them personally. These two conditions are, however, essential for an election to be called democratic.

Instead of elections, the decree proposes a system that relies on sortition and co-optation to select decision-makers.

Article 3

Legislative power is exercised jointly by the Citizens’ Assembly and the Assembly of Sages, in accordance with Title II, which together form the Parliament.

Article 4

Executive power is exercised by the government under the control of Parliament, within its mandate.

TITLE II – GOVERNING BODIES

CHAPTER I – THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY

Article 8

§ 1. The Citizens’ Assembly consists of 150 members.

§ 2. 100 deputies are nominated by lot among the citizens.

§ 3. 50 members are co-opted from the outgoing Assembly for a second term.

§ 4. The term of office of MP is 2 years and is renewable once.

Article 9

§ 1. Selection by lot of members covered by § 2 of Article [8] will maintain quotas of age, sex, origin and provincial representation of the community of citizens on the basis of income list of candidates having previously volunteered in response to a mandatory placement as described in Article 9 § 2.

§ 2. Filing an application is voluntary, following a training course occurring periodically. The course is mandatory for every citizen in order to qualify.

§ 3. Every citizen accepting the office entrusted to him will follow training for the role of MP.

CHAPTER II – THE ASSEMBLY OF SAGES

Article 11

§ 1. The Assembly of Sages consists of 77 members.

§ 2. The term of service of the Sage is four years, renewable under the conditions specified in paragraphs 4 and 5.

§ 3. 39 of 77 elders are appointed by selection whose terms shall be governed by Article 12.

§ 4. Every [four] years, 38 sages are co-opted from the outgoing Assembly. A Sage can not serve more than two terms, subject to the exception in § 5.

§ 5. Any further extension must be supported by 69 Sages of the outgoing Assembly and approved by the Citizens’ Assembly.

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15 Responses

  1. Sounds interesting. Don’t quite understand the selection principle for the House of Sages (what is article 12?). If the House of Sages is an unrepresentative subset of a body that was selected by statistical representation what is its raison d’etre?

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  2. Sin entrar en los detalles, el hecho de que este grupo de jovenes belgas acuerden sustituir el sufragio por el sorteo hace pensar que la corriente sorteista es menos minoritaria de lo que incluso los sorteistas convencidos suponemos, al menos en Belgica. Promisorio

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  3. Yes – Laurent Louis, David Van Reybrouck, Pierre-Yves Ryckaert and the Young Parliament – the winds of change are blowing in Belgium.

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  4. @Tomas, Espero que si. Ademas su proyecto de ley es bastante sofisticado y sabio!

    Anyone from Be, or familiar with Belgian politics, and want to give us the context? Did Pierre-Yves write it alone or was it an idea of the Youth Parliament? Or is he a member of it?

    Also, has everyone here already heard of the Gentils Virus (good viruses) campaign by followers of Etienne Chouard?

    The set-up is rather clever! I particularly like the way the Citizen Assembly approves nominations to the Senate. About a year ago, before the Coup in Egypt, I proposed a similar system in an open letter to Morsi and the Opposition. Needless to say, my letter was probably never read by either:
    http://filasophia.com/2013/01/31/open-letter-to-brotherhood/

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  5. @Keith, it appears that Senate (easier term for house of sages) members can be nominated by anyone, but they are approved by the Citizen Assembly. The number up for nomination at each “election” is then randomly selected from among the approved nominees.

    Because it is silent on this point, the proposal seems to assume that the 38 Senate members who stay a second term would come from the current Parliament, but it is not clear where the 50 initial members of the Citizens Assembly would come from.

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  6. To answer the question about the Belgian political scene…I only know a bit. There has been a sharp divide between the Dutch and French language political parties, and the country went something like 500+ days after the elections a couple of years ago with no coalition government being able to be formed. That bit the world record of Iraq in terms of a failure to negotiate a government coalition following an election. The disdain towards the political class is widespread.

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  7. Terry,

    The chasm between the political parties mirrors the divide in belgian society (ditto Iraq). Belgium, like Iraq, is an artificial nation, cobbled together for political expediency. It would be interesting to see if a change in balloting methods would help, but it’s misleading to think that elections are the cause.

    Ahmed,

    An open nomination system with allotted screening would be easy to corrupt. The term “Sage” suggests an aristocratic appointment principle.

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  8. Anon was me (surprise, surprise!)

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  9. Keith,
    One of the fundamental, though so far not rigorously tested, ideas of sortition advocates like me is that political parties exacerbate certain existing divisions within society. Problems that might be solved in an allotted body actually are exaggerated by parties that derive their life blood (votes) from stressing those divisions with fear. In the U.S. we certainly see far greater polarization (the so called Red Blue divide) among elected officials than we see within the general population. But that polarization between the parties helps generate an echo within the broader population, making resolution that much harder…thanks to elections.

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  10. Yes, I’d agree political parties exacerbate cleavages, but they don’t cause them. I don’t know much about US politics but is the Tea Party a possible exception? As I understand it one of the reasons Republican congressmen are proving so intractable is because of bottom-up pressure not to compromise with the Washington elite.

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  11. Does anyone know the date it was “passed?” I want to report it in a short article.

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  12. The conference took place February 10th to 15th 2013.

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  13. […] Other reforms these youngsters propose in their “decree” are strict term limits for both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Assembly of the Wise (Senate), two two-year terms and two four-year terms respectively. Furthermore, nominations to the Senate must first be approved by a simple majority of the randomly selected Citizens’ Assembly. Their recommendations, then, go beyond making government more representative, to breaking the separation between governors and the governed. With such short term limits, they argue, there would no longer be a class of politicians distinct from the citizenry. Original text (in French) of the decree can be found here. A partial translation here. […]

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  14. […] Other reforms these youngsters propose in their “decree” are strict term limits for both the Citizens’ Assembly and the Assembly of the Wise (Senate), two two-year terms and two four-year terms respectively. Furthermore, nominations to the Senate must first be approved by a simple majority of the randomly selected Citizens’ Assembly. Their recommendations, then, go beyond making government more representative to breaking the separation between governors and the governed. With such short term limits, they argue, there would no longer be a class of politicians distinct from the citizenry. Original text (in French) of the decree can be found here. A partial translation here. […]

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  15. Reblogged this on shiradest and commented:
    Demarchy/Sortition blog

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