The other point of view of the debate at La Croix

The French newspaper La Croix has recently published two pieces under the title “Of what use is the senate?”. A translation of one of those pieces is here. Below is a translation of the opposing view.

Jean-Philippe Derosier: “The senate is in the DNA of our institutions”

Jean-Philippe Derosier is a professor of public law at Lille 2 university and the author of the blog “The constitution decoded”.

Personally, I do not dispute the utility of the senate, even if some changes could surely be considered. There are three reasons for the utility of a second chamber. First of all, a logical reason. The parliament represents the nation, and the nation is the people but also something else. The people are represented by the assembly and other thing, in our system, is the regions (territories). In countries which made the choice of bicameralism, this other thing can be different, for example in England the history of the British nobility is incarnated in the House of Lords, or the civil society in Ireland.

The second reason is biological: there are always more ideas in two heads than in one and the second chamber completes the role of the first through a permanent dialog instituted between the two assemblies.
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Welsh Assembly Member proposes Citizens Juries

From the BBC News:

Compulsory Welsh citizen ‘democratic duty’ call

Welsh citizens should be called-up for compulsory democratic service in the same way as “jury duty”, an AM has said.

Conservative David Melding said a second chamber of the assembly should be created for residents to influence decisions and laws.

Mr Melding said introducing a “citizens service” in Wales would help narrow the gap between politicians and the public.

He said it would help keep politicians and officials “rooted”.

The AM for South Wales Central said the growing distance between politicians and the public, and the lack of engagement was “very damaging”.

Speaking on BBC Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme Mr Melding said a “citizens’ service” should be introduced, in a similar way to jury duty, with residents randomly selected to sit on panels, including local health boards to look at how hospitals and GP services are run, and local town and county councils to have their say on new leisure facilities and bin collection changes.
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Debate at La Croix: Of what use is the senate?

La Croix has recently had an interview with Loïc Blondiaux about the idea of an allotted senate. A few days later, La Croix published two more pieces on this subject, one supporting the idea and one opposing it, under the title “Of what use is the senate?”.

Here is a translation of the ‘in-favor’ side of the debate. A translation of the ‘against’ side will be published in the upcoming days.

Fatou Tall : “The time has come for a citizen senate”.

Fatou Tall is a lawyer and a member of the Citizen senate collective.

What is useful is the bicameralism which divides Parliament into two distinct chambers. Within this framework we consider the way to respond to what appears to be currently a real emergency: revitalising our democracy, “radicalizing democracy”, to use the words of the constitutional scholar Dominique Rousseau. The senate seems to be the appropriate tool for introducing a citizen assembly and the mechanism of sortition at a time when many are questioning the appointment of senators via indirect elections. The idea is therefore to make the senate a chamber of allotted citizens which would be charged with co-creation of the law in concert with the National assembly, as is now the case.
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Loïc Blondiaux on a citizen senate


A France Insoumise rally at the Place de la République in Paris, July 3rd 2017, Thomas Samson/AFP

La Croix has a short interview with Loïc Blondiaux on the idea of a “citizen senate”. Original in French here. My translation, corrections welcome.

What could a citizen senate look like?

Compiled by Béatrice Bouniol, Sept. 22nd, 2017

On the eve of the senate elections, Loïc Blondiaux, professor of political science specializing in participative democracy, discusses the idea of citizen senate and the questions it raises.

La Croix: Why does this idea of a “citizen senate” come up in political debates?

Loïc Blondiaux: The idea of a citizen senate indicates two major developments. First, the return to consciousness of the idea of sortition, which was suppressed for centuries. More and more political players and thinkers are considering the possibility of using it in different ways: citizen juries in a more-or-less ad-hoc setting, citizen assemblies aimed toward an institution change or a new sortition-based institution. Secondly, we witness today an increase in proposals that aim to modify the workings of government bodies, to open them more toward civil society and toward discussion with citizens.
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Cutting through the Brexit cacophony

In April 2016 — before the Brexit referendum — I posted an article on Open Democracy calling for a deliberative alternative based around a citizen’s jury. The UCL Constitution Unit has now adopted a similar approach to deciding what form Brexit should take, as reported by James Blitz in the Financial Times:

The Constitution Unit at University College London has tried to fill this gap. Together with the think-tank UK in a Changing Europe, it recently brought together a “Citizens Assembly” of 50 voters. The group reflected a careful cross section of how people voted at the referendum (25 voted leave, 22 voted remain and three did not vote). The group spent two weekends listening to, and taking part in, a balanced debate on Brexit with the involvement of political speakers, academics and other experts. They were then asked to decide how Brexit should proceed in four votes on specific aspects of the negotiation.

Full article