Constitutional reform: could the Irish approach be useful also for Italy?

More from Improving Democracy:

Constitutional reform in Italy
Italy has incurred a stalemate situation similar to that in which Ireland found itself some time ago relating to a project of constitutional reform. On December 4th 2016 Italians were called to vote on a constitutional reform, previously approved by Parliament, but without the necessary qualified majority, for definitive approval. The electoral turnout at the referendum was quite high in relation to similar prior experiences, recording a vote of over 65% of people eligible to vote. As for the outcome: 40,88% of the voters voted “YES”, while nearly 60% voted “NO”.

[…]

Could the Irish approach be a viable solution for Italy?
Here is precisely where the Irish approach, based on the creation of an advisory body of citizens, may come to rescue the opportunity of change and assure alignment with the real thoughts and feelings of the people.

In Ireland, after the economic crisis, citizens developed a sense of mistrust towards the political parties. There has been a strong movement pressing to change parts of the Constitution, which in that country always requires final approval through a referendum in the end. The political parties, on the other hand, were unable to come to an agreement. The Labour Party in its 2011 program for elections included the promotion of a Convention on the Constitution with the intent of involving citizens directly in the process. After the elections, the program was approved by Parliament. The Convention, proudly referring to itself as “a new venture in participative democracy in Ireland” on its own web site, was formed at the end of 2012 and started its work in January 2013. The body was formed by 100 people, 66 citizens randomly selected and broadly representative of the Irish society, 33 parliamentarians, nominated by their respective political parties and an independent chairman skilled in coaching complex assemblies. The Convention had a mandate to debate and elaborate specific proposals on 8 constitutional issues, plus 2 to be autonomously selected by the Convention itself. Parliament was committed to debate the proposals in the following four months and to prepare the consequent bill for approval through referendum.

Full text: 1, 2 (PDF).

Improving Democracy: Open letter to the institutional and political leaders – No. 3

Roberto Barabino sent the latest open letter issued by the Improving Democracy campaign.

Leaders’ action or the alliance of intermediate bodies to renovate democratic systems?

In summer 2016, as every year, the world’s elite gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, which showed a significant discontinuity compared with previous editions. Instead of trying to propose forced globalization as an advantage for everyone, as it had done in the past, they chose to tell the truth: the assertive technological innovation and, in particular, artificial intelligence, will not benefit everyone, but it will lead to an unemployment rate never seen before and possibly irreversible. The first solutions suggested by the founder of Microsoft Bill Gates (to tax robots) and by Klaus Schwab, the organizer of the Forum (universal basic income) show that the fears of those in power regarding social and political consequences of such a reality are high.

The full letter (PDF).

The allotted Irish Citizens’ Assembly sends its recommendations to the Oireachtas

Wikipedia:

The Citizens’ Assembly (Irish: An Tionól Saoránach) is a citizens’ assembly established in Ireland in 2016 to consider several political questions: abortion, fixed term parliaments, referendums, population ageing, and climate change. It will produce reports to be considered by the Oireachtas (parliament).

[…]

On 26 July 2016, Mary Laffoy, a judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland, was chosen by the government as chairperson of the assembly.

The 99 other members are “citizens entitled to vote at a referendum, randomly selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society”. As with the 66 citizen members of the Constitutional Convention, these 99 plus 99 substitutes were selected by an opinion polling company; Red C won the tender and began selection at the start of September. The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2016 was passed to enable the electoral register to be used in this process. Media were asked not to photograph the citizen members before the inaugural Assembly meeting. By the 27 November 2016 meeting, 11 of the 99 had been replaced by substitutes.

The Irish Post:

THE Irish Citizen’s Assembly has voted overwhelmingly in favour of abortion in a landslide vote.

[…]

The citizens involved in the vote had attended five two-day meetings since November 2016 and had heard from a series of legal and medical professionals.
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A prominent French presidential candidate makes sortition part of his programme

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).
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Le Forme della Politica: Improving Democracy

Roberto Barabino writes the following:

Le Forme della politica” (Forms of Politics, abbr. FDP) is a an Italian non-partisan association whose objective is to analyze the forms, i.e. the rules of the game and the conceptual premises of the political decisions, in order to make proposals and take action for their improvement. The FDP is based on the teachings of the philosopher Giuseppe Polistena, who is also a co-founder of the association. He intends to correct “Aristotle’s mistake” (his statement that “the man is a political animal”), because politics is the pursuit of the common good and this is not a natural attribute of men and women, but requires a difficult effort in order to be achieved.

The FDP was founded in 2012 and up until 2016 focused on the Italian political sphere. The main themes were: the criteria necessary to guarantee the democratic functioning of political parties, the differences between institutional and political leadership, the limits to parliamentary mandates, and the study of foreign experiences regarding direct democracy and participation.

In 2016 we read and discussed David Van Reybroucks’s outstanding book “Against elections” that showed the intrinsic weaknesses of the electoral-representative democracy and proposed a bi-representative democracy in which sortition plays a relevant role. This was the inspiration for creating the international branch of our association, called “Improving Democracy” (ID), and to launch the “International Sortition Project” (ISP), in which we propose that a small proportion (e.g., 10%) of the members of the elective assemblies at various levels (parliament, regional council, town council, etc.) should be reserved for citizens, who will be able to put themselves forward as candidates for such roles without being part of an organized political force.
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“Anyone have any better ideas?”

Terry Bouricius pointed out the following story in The Onion, “America’s finest news source”:

Humanity Surprised It Still Hasn’t Figured Out Better Alternative To Letting Power-Hungry [Depraved People] Decide Everything

NEW YORK—Noting that it has had thousands of years to develop a more agreeable option, humankind expressed bewilderment this week that it has yet to devise a better alternative to governing itself than always letting power-hungry assholes run everything, sources worldwide reported.

Individuals in every country on earth voiced their frustration that, in spite of generations of mistreatment, neglect, and abuse they have suffered at the hands of those in positions of authority, they continue to allow control over the world’s governments, businesses, and virtually every other type of organization and social group to fall to the most megalomaniacal pricks among them.
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