Sortition in Switzerland

The Swiss news website 24heures has a story about sortition in Switzerland. (Original in French, my translation, corrections welcome.)

And if parliament members were allotted?

Democracy A seminar examines the use of sortition in Switzerland, which some citizens want to implement.

By Caroline Zuercher, 25.10.2017

Antoine Chollet, research professor at UNIL. Photo: Marius Affolter

Allotment is useful not only for selecting the winners in lotteries. A group of citizens, Generation Nomination, wants to use it for selecting our people’s representatives in Berne. In time, they place to launch a initiative to this effect. The mechanism is far from being new having already been used in ancient Greece. An international seminar, on Friday and Saturday at the university of Lausanne is examining exactly these experiences in Switzerland and in Europe.

Sortition has been used in various contexts. And it has not always been synonymous with democracy. Antoine Chollet, teaching assistant in the University of Lausanne, gives and example. In the 18th century Berne used it to name bailiffs and other magistrates, but only the members of noble families participated in the allotment. The goal was therefore about all to share power among the powerful.

Switzerland had more democratic experiences as well. Studies supported by the National Swiss fund for scientific research examined cases in Schwytz and in Glaris. “There, the people demanded allotment in order to reduce the corruption of the elites and to enhance the circle of powerful families”, explains the researcher. In Glaris at the end of the 18 century, for example, the deputies were for allotted among the entire body of citizens. With limited success: “Our research shows that it was transformed into a form of lottery. Those who were selected could resell their post: that was the great prize!”
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Peers at top of credibility rankings

The following data is from the “2017 Edelman Trust Barometer“, a multi-country opinion survey. Interestingly, the report seems to have generated very little press coverage.

The survey finds that in most countries surveyed, including all Western European countries surveyed, a majority of the population thinks the system is failing. In all countries surveyed, except for two, there are more people who think that the system is failing than people who think the system works. The exceptions are China and the UAE.

With loss of faith in electoralism reaching crisis levels, the mood seems ripe for democracy with trust in “a person like yourself” now at the top of the trust rankings.

“Maybe they expected to have more influence on projects”

An article by Sabrina Nanji in the Toronto Star is an interesting mix between the standard citizen-jury PR and facts that undermine this standard narrative. There is also an appearance by the familiar elite discourse of the struggle of diversity promoting liberalism against conservative white-supremacist ideology.

The story of Toronto’s Planning Review Panel shows one very important aspect (even if a completely foreseeable one) of the surge of sortition in the 21st century: it is being experimented with by established elites for their own purposes (i.e., for its usefulness in buttressing their power) rather than as a tool of democracy.

City of Toronto is looking for your input on urban planning issues

The city is looking for regular folks interested in studying and informing municipal planning policy and projects on the Toronto Planning Review Panel.

Calling all wannabe urban planners and civic champions — Toronto’s planning department wants your advice.

This week 10,000 letters were randomly sent out across the city soliciting regular folks interested in studying and informing municipal planning policy and projects on the Toronto Planning Review Panel, which is wrapping up its first-ever experiment in diverse citizen engagement, to mixed reviews.

Two years after they were recruited, the original 28 panelists will meet for the last time next Saturday and the search is already on for the next batch of volunteers to take up the mantle in January.
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“The flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly”

It was reported in August that a lottery is going to be used in Greece to distribute the distinction of carrying the flag. This decision is now being taken to court:

A group of parents wants the state’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to overturn a decision by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for flagbearers in school parades to be chosen by lottery and not to the best student as had been the custom.

SYRIZA doesn’t believe in excellence in education nor standards for university admissions but the parents who protested said the flag should be held by a student who has achieved and not randomly.

Education Minister Costas Gavroglou issued the lottery scheme but the parents said it is unconstitutional and was driven by ideology and not merit, nor by popular demand or social necessity. He said the lottery makes the process fairer even if it excludes top students for their work.

The random selection of “an Afghan boy” as flag bearer made him the victim of violence:
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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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