October 19 2016

Save the democracy: no elections, but randomly chosen representatives

For years Belgian cultural historian and writer David Van Reybrouck has been advocating for strengthening democracy in Europe. He was the mastermind and originator of the G1000 experiment that took place in Brussels in 2011. During this citizen G1000 summit 1000 Belgians discussed how to create a better democracy in Belgium.

 

Three years ago Van Reybrouck wrote the book ‘Against Elections: The Case for Democracy’, in which he argues that instead of choosing a representative through the ballot box, we should return to allotted legislature called ‘sortition’. Sortition is an effective (and ancient) remedy against the deep malaise the current democratic systems in the western world are in. It can, according to Van Reybrouck, revitalize what has become an impotent representative democracy by involving its citizens in all that concerns society.

 

Basically the idea is that a small number of the public are randomly selected by lottery and are then empowered to study a given issue as representatives of the population at large. Each area of legislation or debate could be covered by different randomly selected representatives.

 

With the coup in Turkey, the Brexit, elections in the USA, long formations in Spain, and politicians increasingly aligning their policies to the next elections, this summer was the perfect time for him to write an addendum to his 2013 essay.

 

David Van Reybrouck: “The words ‘elections’ and ‘democracy’ are nowadays synonymous for almost everyone. Democracy has been reduced to representative democracy and representative democracy has been reduced to elections, miring a valuable system in deep difficulties.” The book proposes to select representatives at random out of ordinary people, provide them with balanced information, the possibility to consult professionals and let them deliberate together. According to Van Reybrouck such a system would reduce corruption and election fever, while increasing attention to the common good.

 

Politicians chosen at random by lot. Is sortition indeed the way to bring democracy back to life? Will it lead to a higher voter turnout? John Hogervorst has written a blog about his personal thoughts on the subject.

 

Sources: Equality by Lot, The Guardian, Synthetron, Woord, De Bezige Bij, Trouw, Daily News

 

The video below explains how sortition works

 

 

 
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The Summer Foundation strives for a free, equal and solidary society. More about this…