2017 review – sortition-related events

This is the end-of-year summary of notable sortition related events for 2017.

Readers wrote that in their opinion the most important sortition-related event of 2017 was the adoption by law in Mongolia of deliberative polling as part of its constitutional amendment process. The opinions in the exit survey of the deliberation poll “help shape the process of constitutional amendment the government undertakes”.

This event seems like a natural part of a decades-long trend of declining confidence in electoral systems and a more recent trend of increasing, if very preliminary and tentative, adoption of sortition-based political devices.

Worldwide, trust in elected government in 2017 remained low and showed no signs of recovery.

As in previous years, French speaking countries showed the most noticeable moves toward seeing sortition as a way to redistribute significant political power. In France, two of the three most successful presidential candidates in the 2017 elections, including the winner, Emmanuel Macron, were politicians who made sortition part of the political agenda. In November, La France insoumise allotted members of its constitutional convention. Sortition was also discussed, again and again in French media. Proposals for using sortition in Belgium and Switzerland received some attention.

Elsewhere in Europe, the allotted Irish Citizens’ Assembly sent its recommendations to the parliament with a referendum to follow. Sortition was also adopted by a branch of Podemos in Spain and was promoted by a party in Austria.

In the English speaking world, academics devoted some attention to sortition in workshops at McGill university and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Outside of academia, a fairly robust polemic for sortition appeared in the US magazine Current Affairs. A book proposing sortition as an add-on to the electoral system was reviewed in the New York Times.

As another indication of increasing prominence of the idea of sortition in establishment circles, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan mentioned sortition in a speech he gave to the Athens Democracy Forum.

Finally, distribution-by-lot received fairly intense attention in Greece in the context of a debate over the mechanism of selection of flag bearers in schools.