Quirky French presidential hopeful offers clerocracy

Quirky hopefuls liven up French presidential race

(Reuters) – From a peroxide-blonde stripper who wants to get bankers meditating to a Rastafarian advocating tantrism as a national religion, a string of colorful outsiders are vying for a place in France’s 2012 presidential election.

One wants to bring back the monarchy, another says leaders should be picked by lottery and a third is a clown who doesn’t actually have any campaign proposals.


The 37-year-old artist from Lille said he has no program or proposals at all, “like the rest of them,” and isn’t even seeking mayoral signatures. But voters using his homemade voting slips April 6 will be making a protest, he said.

“Lots of people in France are saying they should vote for (far-right) Marine Le Pen in protest. I think voting for me would be a much more intelligent way to do it,” he told Reuters.

In the southeastern town of Valences, fencing teacher Francois Amanrich, 62, has a more radical solution for doing away with party politics — a return to an ancient Athenian democracy where leaders are chosen by lottery.

His Clerocrat Movement, named after the ancient Greek word kleroterion, a type of randomization machine used to select citizens for office, proposes citizens vote for local representatives, but that higher ranks be selected by a draw.

“We keep electing the presidential candidate we think is going to save us and it hasn’t worked for decades but we still carry on,” he told Reuters.

Amanrich has stood twice before, in 2002 and 2007, with little success, but this time he said he has 330 mayoral signatures behind him, thanks to support from the freemasons.


Presidential elections the world over come with their share of weird and wacky candidates, bringing light relief to the sometimes dreary world of politics or making a tongue-in-cheek statement about the failure of the political classes to address public concerns.

Behind the bizarre proposals in France lies a clear public disaffection with mainstream politics, exacerbated by four years of economic crisis that have driven unemployment to a 12-year high and left many households feeling worse off than in years.

21 Responses

  1. The President: this is the ‘main Democrat’ or the Monarch “for a time”? A step toward Common Sense and Collective Intelligence: New, multipolar political system and the self-balancing model of government of 5 independent political parties with the movable centre joint decisions would put an end to ideological enmity and direct energy of party leaders to benefit whole society. http://www.modelgovernment.org/en/
    Hi from Russia!


  2. Hi Nicholas,

    I have not read your proposal carefully, but it appears to me that it is a variant of electoralism. If so, then it is hard to have much hope that a significant improvement over the current system will be achieved since many variants of the electoral system have been with us for decades and none appears to have resulted in meaningful democracy.

    What is your opinion regarding sortition (i.e., the appointment of office-holders by lottery)?

    Thanks for visiting.


  3. Too bad it’s associated with other proposals that make no sense at all. It looks like still a lot of work is needed before the public will consider sortition a respectable alternative to elections.

    By the way, the Clerocrat Movement has a website with some content in English.

    The word clerocracy caught my attention because I think a word to denote a political system in which sortition is used would be useful. I guess sortition is not too bad to talk about the concept, at least in English: by searching the corresponding italian sorteggio on google all results will be about soccer…

    For the Italian website I made and the wikipedia.it article I wrote I used the term demarchia, an italianisation of demarchy. Actually I used to think it was the correct term in English too, it’s used by wikipedia (actually it uses sortition too, as there are two competing articles…), and on quite some places on the web. The reason because it took me a few months to find this website is because I didn’t use the term sortition in my searches. Later I realised that Burnheim probably intended the word demarchy to be used for his particular system, not for any system where sortition was used.

    Probably the best term would be democracy =) But well, it’s already used as a more general term that includes the current not terribly democratic systems. That’s why I think demarchy which has a similar etymology wouldn’t actually be a bad term. This blog seem to currently be the main resource about the subject. I would like to have your opinion about the matter. If we were to agree to use the term to mean a political system which uses sortition as a means to chose it’s main decision making body, and if Burnheim were to agree for the term to mean something more general that what he had in mind, I think the new meaning would become reality.


  4. John Burnheim contributes to this Blog…so…John, as Fela asks above…do you consent to the reappropriation of your neologism, “demarchy” as a term for any form of popular government that relies on sortition rather than election for creating policy decision bodies? While a new word eventually takes on a life of its own, it seems to me that the person who coins it can semi-officially shape the meaning.


  5. The problem is that clerocracy pushes us into an either-or situation (indeed I’ve already used the word klerotocracy on this blog as a pejorative term for an oligarchy that is selected by lot). Although the term demarchy was coined by Hayek, John was the first to associate it with selection by lot and it’s come to be strongly associated with his own particular model of voluntarist anarchism. Although sortition is not a very sexy term it does have the advantage of being (merely) a technique that can be incorporated into existing political systems in a number of ways, but I imagine this will not please everyone here (although I thought Fela was disposed to a pluralist model). The other problem with demarchy is that the etymological distinction (with democracy) is merely between “rule” and “power” and this is orthogonal to the election-sortition divide.


  6. John, my reading of “Is Democracy Possible” was that demarchy is not just sortition – it’s a radically different way of allocating decision making responsibilities, among many more bodies than we have now – with sortition used to select the decision makers in all of them.

    Is that correct?


  7. Clerocracy is a useful term for a sortition-based government system, I think. There is also a need for a term for an elections-based system (e.g., eklogocracy).

    Those should be objectively descriptive terms, allowing the user to form their own opinion regarding the non-trivial question of whether the resulting system is democratic (i.e., promoting political equality).


  8. Yes, but that presupposes it’s an either-or choice, whereas some of us would argue for a mixed constitution, and would be content to see democracy realised via a combination of balloting techniques (as was the case in antiquity). Democracy cannot be achieved using either elections or sortition alone, for reasons that we have discussed at length on this forum, so I’m at a loss to understand why we would wish to coin a new term to describe an unrealisable system of government (although it might be of interest to writers of utopian and science fiction literature)


  9. Standardizing terminology is challenging, but important for spreading ideas. For my purposes, I am more concerned about popular usage than academic usage.

    “Democracy” is currently used as a feel-good catch-all term referring to a representative, popular and responsive government… it is ASSUMED through the use of elections. It seems reasonable that one might speak of “democracy through the use of sortition.” That is how I am approaching sortition in a the book I have been working on, rather than using a new term like demarchy or clerocracy.

    But even the term “election” is open to to more than one meaning. Historically, some theorists have referred to “election by lot” as being in opposition to “election by choice,” or “preferential election.”

    On this Blog we have tended to set sortition in opposition to election. We use the verb “alloted” (as in an “allotted chamber”) and avoid “elected by lot.”

    Does someone want to propose a taxonomy?


  10. I realized that “allotted” is used as an adjective there…What exactly should the verb be?


  11. I think the verb would be “allot” (ie to cast a lot). Agree with Terry that its sensible to work from the way words are actually used. If democracy is the rule (or power) of the people then there is no need to replace it; the conversation is only how best to achieve it (election, sortition, referendum, votation, or some combination). To make the point that (exclusive reliance on) election has failed to achieve democracy has the merit of being an argument that few thoughtful people would disagree with.

    Clerocracy/kleritocracy and eklogocracy are ideal types that we would probably be better off without and demarchy has been purloined to represent a particular proposal. Although “election by lot” has been used by Headlam it only confuses the need to separate election and sortition as different balloting techniques. So let’s stick to:

    | |
    election sortition


  12. FWIW, I don’t think there’s a need for one word for the “system” we advocate, simply because there’s no one “system” advocated by those on this blog. Sortition is a tool, and what we on this blog share is a belief that this tool has a lot of potential in rectifying many of the failures of contemporary democracy. Burnheim’s “demarchy” is just one specific system that makes extensive use of this tool. But one of the main purposes of this blog, as I see it, is precisely to give us a place to argue about such things. That said, I agree with those who think it’s worth distinguishing between Burnheim’s proposals and others, and perhaps coining some terms for the major institutional alternatives.


  13. Standardizing terminology is challenging, but important for spreading ideas. For my purposes, I am more concerned about popular usage than academic usage.

    I quite agree. That is also the reason I started this discussion.

    Although we (fortunately) have different opinions about how exactly an alternative democratic government should work, there seem to be a general agreement towards a system where much of ultimate decisional power is given to an allotted body.

    One reason I was proposing to call such a system a demarchy is because the term is already used in some places (mainly wikipedia and newidmeanschange.org), and etymologically it means the same as democracy. Note that the etymology of a word doesn’t always exactly (have to) match the actual meaning. Clerocracy wouldn’t be a bad term, for as far as I’m concerned, if not that it doesn’t seem to have been used anywhere, and to me personally it sounds like government by the clergy (clergy translates to clero in Italian).

    But if I think of it I must say it also sense to just stick with the term “sortition”, to promote and talk about the subject, specially as the people here don’t seem to have instantaneously fallen in love with the word demarchy. If we decide to do so I can try to rename the demarchy wikipedia article to something like “sortition in politics” (that article needs some work by the way, if some native English speaker wants to help I think it would make sense to structure it similarly to my italian version, which also needs to be updated with what I learned in the last months).

    I will also need to think about what to do with my italian blog, where I used the Italian translation demarchia all over the place, I even registered demarchia.info for it. Most of the traffic (just a few clicks a day actually) comes from searching the term on Google, most likely because the main italian national news paper run a story by a constitutionalist proposing to use sortition to solve our political mess. He in turn might have taken the term from the italian wikipedia article I wrote.


  14. Agree with Peter’s comments. According to Dowlen sortition is the use of the lot for the selection of political office-holders, so no need to say “sortition in politics”, sortition alone will do. Assuming this is true then the use of the lot for the allocation of scarce resources (school places etc) is not sortition — the term is specifically a political one.


  15. Peter,

    > I don’t think there’s a need for one word for the “system” we advocate, simply because there’s no one “system” advocated by those on this blog.

    I agree. I do think, however, that a terms for a “sortition-based system” and for an “elections-based system” would be useful. Today the term “democracy” is misleadingly used in the latter sense, and this is a major hindrance to rational discussion.


    > the main italian national news paper run a story by a constitutionalist proposing to use sortition to solve our political mess

    Interesting. Can you provide a link?


  16. >I do think, however, that a terms for a “sortition-based system” and for an “elections-based system” would be useful. Today the term “democracy” is misleadingly used in the latter sense

    All the more reason to reclaim the term, especially as we are merely seeking to revert to something closer to its original meaning. The equation of democracy with electoral representation is a very recent aberration and the variants “deliberative”, “participative”, “direct”, “discursive” etc show that even now the association with electoral representation is being questioned. Much better to add the adjective “sortive” to the list.


  17. Keith,

    Was that “sortive democracy.”
    or “sort of democracy?”


  18. Ha! A better sort than currently on offer.


  19. Here you can find the article on Il Corriere della Sera I talked about. It’s written by Michele Ainis, he’s a law professor and considered an expert on constitutional issues (that’s actually what I meant with constitutionalist), he sometimes writes opinions on various papers. He already come to my attention once when I saw him in a tv program where he presented his book about ways to make the current system more democratic. If I recall correctly they where a lot less drastic than the use of sortition, but they did make a lot of sense, I wanted to buy the book, but then forgot about it.

    For those ho don’t speak Italian I will translate the relevant parts of the article. He starts by talking about how at the end of 2011 the distance between political class and the general population is bigger than ever. He talks a bit about how the current system fails and the current proposals of change won’t do the job of regaining the faith of the people.

    His proposal is threefold, firstly he proposes to not allow politicians to sit in parliament for more than two terms, secondly he proposes to institute the possibility to recall politicians, and

    Thirdly, we need a representation of the excluded – the young, the women, the jobless, but in the end we all are excluded from this Parliament. Carlo Calenda talked about it on Il Foglio of the 29th of December, proposing for the Senate to become a “Citizens Chamber” selected by sortition, as to reflect the social-demografic profile of the Country. A weird idea? Not that much. Demarchy – sortive democracy – is gaining traction all over the world, at least at municipal level. Even in Italy: for example in Capannori, in the province of Lucca. […] And let’s not forget Aristotle’s lesson: he said that election is typical of aristocracies, sortition of democracies.

    Let’s thing it through, before throwing these ideas in the dustbin. Isn’t it an aristocracy, that by which we are currently governed? A chamber of allotted citizens, with stimulus and control functions towards the elected Chamber, would help our institutions become the real image of italian society. Limits and more stringent obligations of the elected would cut the power of the political parties, giving representation back its authentic meaning. If utopia is the driving force of history, we need it now more than ever to push forward our collective history.


  20. By the way, you might now be curious about Capannori, it’s a town that decided to create a deliberative allotted body to decide what to do with 400.000 euro set aside for social projects. When I will have time I want to try to contact somebody of those involved, to get a bit more insider information about it.


  21. Fela,

    Thanks for the link and the translation. Did you try getting in touch with Prof. Ainis or with Carlo Calenda? Maybe they would like to join our little group of sortition advocates?


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