Van Reybrouck: Belgium’s democratic experiment

David Van Reybrouck has a piece in politico.eu about the new sortition-based bodies in Belgium.

Those looking for a solution to the wave of anger and distrust sweeping Western democracies should have a look at an experiment in European democracy taking place in a small region in eastern Belgium.

Starting in September, the parliament representing the German-speaking region of Belgium will hand some of its powers to a citizens’ assembly drafted by lot. It’ll be the first time a political institution creates a permanent structure to involve citizens in political decision making.

It’s a move Belgian media has rightly hailed as “historic.” I was in parliament the night MPs from all six parties moved past ideological differences to endorse the bill. It was a courageous move, a sign to other politicians — who tend to see their voters as a threat rather than a resource — that citizens should be trusted, not feared, or “spun.”

Nowhere else in the world will everyday citizens be so consistently involved in shaping the future of their community. In times of massive, widespread distrust of party politics, German-speaking Belgians will be empowered to put the issues they care about on the agenda, to discuss potential solutions, and to monitor the follow-up of their recommendations as they pass through parliament and government. Politicians, in turn, will be able to tap independent citizens’ panels to deliberate over thorny political issues. […]

Some questionable details and interpretations:

Participation won’t be mandatory, but those who join in the process will have their costs covered and receive a modest per diem.

It’s a unique model, designed by a group of 14 international experts brought together by G1000, Belgium’s leading platform for democratic innovation.

By giving its citizens an equal opportunity to help develop future policy in an informed and structured way, it is likely to be better equipped to survive the storm.

One Response

  1. The Economist:

    On September 16th, 24 randomly chosen Germanophones from the country’s eastern fringe took their seats in a Citizens’ Council. They will have the power to tell elected officials which issues matter, and for each such issue to task a Citizens’ Assembly (also chosen at random) with brainstorming ideas on how to solve them.

    https://www.economist.com/europe/2019/10/03/a-belgian-experiment-that-aristotle-would-have-approved-of

    Liked by 1 person

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