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 By the 27 November 2016 meeting, 11 of the 99 had been replaced by substitutes.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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Representative Isegoria

In my sortition thesis I argue that both elements of Athenian democracy — isonomia and isegoria — need to be representative when applied to large modern states. Representative isonomia is achieved via large randomly-selected juries, but isegoria requires different mechanisms — including competitive commercial media — to ensure the accurate representation of public opinion. This presupposes a bottom-up model in which commercial newspapers “refine and enlarge” the opinion of their readers (in order to increase subscription revenue). This has been much criticised by advocates of the Lasswell propaganda thesis — the critique specifically aimed at the concentrated ownership of the MSM — arguing that “the freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one”.

The top-down Lasswell thesis has been thrown into doubt by the Brexit referendum — the Daily Mail supported Brexit and the Mail On Sunday supported Remain. Both newspapers are owned by the strongly Remain supporting Lord Rothermere, whereas the position of the broadsheets owned by Brexit-supporting Rupert Murdoch was the other way round (Sunday Times for Brexit, The Times for Remain).
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Antoine Bevort: Chouard and democracy: an intellectual and political fraud

The following is my translation of a recent article Antoine Bevort in the online French publication Mediapart. Like Tommy Lasserre’s Sortition in politics – the false good idea, which appeared in Mediapart two years ago, the article is a critique of Chouard and his proposals. Bevort makes some similar points, but, unlike Lasserre, doesn’t focus solely on sortition, and when he does discuss sortition he often deals with implementation details rather than with the principle itself to which he is not wholly hostile. Bevort also relies much less than Lasserre on canned Leftist rhetoric. As a result of those differences more of his punches land on target.

Chouard and democracy: an intellectual and political fraud
29 June 2016 Antoine Bevort

Étienne Chouard presents himself as the scholar of “real” democracy. His proposal of allotting of a constitutional assembly is however a fraud. It incorporates general principles which can be embraced, at least in part, but rests on largely specious argumentation, eventually leading to a strange and dogmatic conception of democracy.

Chouard considers himself the guru of “real” democracy. He feels he has found the “cause of causes” of the political crisis (“the political disempowerment of the citizens”) and proposes as a solution the allotment of a constitutional assembly. In his analyses, Chouard invokes general principles which can be embraced at least in part, but advances mainly through theoretical and historical shortcuts, simplifications or even misinterpretations, and through blunt claims and assertions. His dogmatic propositions are based on largely specious argumentation and lead eventually to a strange philosophy of democracy.

In order to deconstruct this rhetoric of mystification, we use a conference video available online[i], a text on the Gentils Virus website whose contents are very similar to those of the conference, as well as on the wiki of this organization, and particularly on the constitution drafted by Chouard. We first discuss his analysis of the existing political system, his claims that “we are not living in a democracy yet” and that “an electoral system is not a democracy”. Then we examine his conception of the “true democracy”, and his proposal of drawing by lot a constitutional assembly. We conclude with the mode of action which Chouard, the Gentils Virus (GV) and Les Citoyens Constituants (LCC), two organizations which promote his ideas, are pursuing.
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Democracy talk – Episode 3: Brexit

Patrick Chalmers and I are offering our conversation regarding Brexit and related issues.

Initiative in Switzerland calls for a referendum on “elections by sortiton”

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Harald K. calls attention to an interview with Charly Pache, a Swiss political activist, in the Pirate Times. Pachy is one of the founders of the group “Génération Nomination” which aims to introduce sortition to the Swiss government. In the interview he makes an explicit proposal: replace elections with sortition as the mechanism for selecting the Swiss legislature.

Excerpt:

Pirate Times: What is “Generation Nomination” initiative?

Charly Pache: Generation Nomination is a Swiss based movement that wants to empower every citizen to be an active element of democracy, by introducing a system called ‘sortition’ in which members of the legislative are no more elected but randomly selected among all citizens, hence to give equal chances to all to be a player in the political decisions, no matter how rich or connected the citizen is. We are active on local, regional and national levels, with good connection with direct democracy NGO’s, academics and activists around the world.

Pirate Times: When did it start and what are its aims?

Charly Pache: We launched Generation Nomination publicly in 2015 after two years of preparation. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) does not ensure the right to democracy but barely to ‘free elections’, what in fact shrinks the exercise of democracy to only elections… this is a very poor definition, as democracy is a lot more than ‘elections’: it’s about participation of all citizen, debating, informing, building political competences among the population. Furthermore, elections are of aristocratic nature, not of democratic essence. We want to broaden the ECHR with the right to democracy.

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Arash Abizadeh: Take electoral reform away from politicians and let citizens decide

David Schecter wrote to point out an article in the Canadian Globe and Mail by Arash Abizadeh, a professor of political science at McGill University:

Take electoral reform away from politicians and let citizens decide

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to change the way we elect Parliament. Here’s the problem: letting politicians who won the last election decide future election rules is like letting the team who won the last playoff game decide rules for the next game. There’s an obvious conflict of interest. Electoral rules determine who forms government, and different rules favour different parties.

[…]

One solution is a referendum. But the Liberals have ruled this out. Maybe they’re right to do so. Referenda are expensive, few Canadians care much about electoral reform, and fewer still will cuddle up with a treatise on voting systems this Sunday evening. A referendum might be a big waste of money in which few vote and fewer still care to learn about the pros and cons of alternative electoral systems.

But without a referendum, how could electoral reform be legitimized? We need a manifestly fair procedure – a neutral body, unbeholden to politicians, that will reasonably evaluate the alternatives.

Fortunately, political scientists have a solution that fits the bill – a randomly selected citizen assembly. The idea is this: randomly select a few thousand Canadians, ask if they are willing to serve, and, from those saying yes, randomly select 100 to 200 to serve on an assembly empowered to determine federal election rules.
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Allotted bodies better than referenda

Two new articles argue that allotted bodes are a better democratic tool than referenda. Both criticize the referenda system for asking the public to make uninformed decisions and both invoke the Athenian precedent. There are also some differences for the sharp-eyed reader to pick out.

Simon Threlkeld writes in Truthout:

Let Juries Legislate: Why Citizen Juries Are Better Than the Ballot Initiative for Citizen Lawmaking

Twenty-four US states have the ballot initiative. Unfortunately, the process is heavily skewed in favor of rich interests and unsuitable for making informed decisions. A much better method of citizen lawmaking is needed.

[…]

Classical Athens, often called the birthplace of democracy, sheds light on how citizen lawmaking can be done in an informed, fair and highly democratic way. In Athens, much of the decision-making was done by various juries chosen from the citizens by lottery. This kept a wide range of decisions in the hands of the citizens, prevented elite rule and provided a more informed version of citizen rule than popular vote.

Keith Sutherland writes in openDemocracy:

The Brexit lottery

On June 23, Britain will go to the polls to decide whether or not the country should remain a member of the European Union. David Cameron’s in–out referendum on EU membership is, ostensibly, about finding out what the people want. But there is a better, and more democratic, way.

[…]

Referendums are swayed by irrelevant issues, are “very blunt instruments” and the outcome would be “a lottery”, [Peter Mandelson] said. In a sense, Lord Mandelson is right – the experience of countries like Ireland, where referendums are commonplace, suggests that they are often used to give the government of the day a kicking, rather than deal with the issue at hand. And yet a different kind of lottery could be more representative of public opinion than a referendum vote.
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