Our ongoing debate on Egypt got me thinking about the connection (or lack of it) between sortition and religion. Fustel de Coulanges’ 1864 account, that lot was the revelation of divine will, was discredited by Headlam in 1891 and nobody has sought to revive it. Similarly, as Conall Boyle points out in his edition of Gataker, lotteries were only acceptable in the Judaeo-Christian tradition in so far as they didn’t involve claims about divine revelation.

On the other hand Oliver Dowlen argues that the disappearance of lot may well be connected with religious factors, as sortition appears to have been a victim of the Reformation:

There are many reasons why the process of selecting nominators by lot might have been lost in the transition from Venice to the New World. . . The drawing of the lottery was very much a public process, witnessed by the whole community or reggimento. To the puritan settlers this could have seemed a very foreign, bizarre public ritual which smacked of superstition – even Catholicism. The secret ballot, on the other hand, conformed to the Protestant ideal that the private individual should be alone in his judgement and answerable only to God. (Dowlen, Political Potential of Sortition, p.163)

The question that I’m leading up to – and it’s no more than that – is would sortition-based politics be more acceptable to Muslim sensibilities than (Western) electoral politics, and might this possibly account for the failure of electoral democracy in the Arab world?

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