A post by Arturo Iniguez.
L’Avenir en commun (A Shared Future) is the name given to the programme of La France insoumise (France Uprising) and its candidate for the May 2017 French presidential election, Jean-Luc Melenchon. The programme is arranged into 7 parts. The first one, under the tag-line L’urgence démocratique (The democratic urgency), is called La 6eme République, in reference to a new Constitution that would replace the current one, the Fifth, instigated by Charles de Gaulle in 1958. If elected president, Melenchon has promised to convene a constitutional convention and prematurely end his five-year mandate as soon as the new constitution is adopted. Thus, the very first measure in the programme is Réunir une Assemblée constituante (Summon a Constituent Assembly).
Each individual measure is developed in a separate booklet, forming a whole collection. Number 28 of the series, under the title Changer de République pour faire place au peuple (Reform the Republic to create a place for the people), explains how the members of the constitutional convention would be designated. The proposal is to combine election and sortition. In which proportion? That is left to the people themselves. At the poll, each citizen can either vote for a candidate or express his or her personal preference for sortition. The percentage of options for sortition will determine the share of seats to be sorted.
This is a clever way to avoid one of the main sources of resistance to any future attempts to introduce sortition: the opposition of those who are not interested in being sorted, will immediately resign in the event of being chosen by the lot, and are generally happy with the aristocratic setting of voting for professional politicians. These people will see any amount of power given to a purely sorted body as power directly detracted from them. Such a change will be unfair to them (the status quo is of course unfair to all those who do not vote).
Melenchon’s elegant solution is to let each citizen choose his or her preferred path to political participation. You can vote if you want, but you cannot impose voting on those of your fellow citizens who don’t trust professional politicians and would rather be sorted. They have the same right to political participation as you have.
This shifts the focus of the discussion. It is no longer a collective decision on how we agree to be governed, but something much more basic. It is a matter of individual rights; to be precise, of the right on which the whole edifice of the social contract is predicated: the right to have a say.
Opening only one path for political participation automatically means leaving some people without any say; both options have to be left open so that everyone can choose whether he or she wants to follow the aristocratic or the democratic path to representation.
In practice, this means that I no longer have to convince you that sortition is good for you before you agree to relinquish power to a purely sorted body. You only have to acknowledge that sortition may be good for me and that you have no right to deprive me of it.
We live under an oppressive regime that denies a good share of the population their desired way to exercise their right to political participation. A purely democratic regime would be similarly oppressive. A truly inclusive regime is the one that gives freedom of choice to all citizens as to how each prefers to be represented.