Jacquet, Niessen and Reuchamps: Sortition, its advocates and its critics

A new paper (full text) in International Political Science Review by Belgian academics Vincent Jacquet, Christoph Niessen and Min Reuchamps titled “Sortition, its advocates and its critics: An empirical analysis of citizens’ and MPs’ support for random selection as a democratic reform proposal” is a useful survey-based study comparing the attitudes of Belgian citizens towards sortition to those of Belgian MPs. As may be expected, and as can be seen in the figure above, MPs are much more reluctant than citizens to hand off power to allotted bodies.

Abstract: This article explores the prospects of an increasingly debated democratic reform: assigning political offices by lot. While this idea is advocated by political theorists and politicians in favour of participatory and deliberative democracy, the article investigates the extent to which citizens and MPs actually endorse different variants of ‘sortition’. We test for differences among respondents’ social status, disaffection with elections and political ideology. Our findings suggest that MPs are largely opposed to sortitioning political offices when their decision-making power is more than consultative, although leftist MPs tend to be in favour of mixed assemblies (involving elected and sortitioned members). Among citizens, random selection seems to appeal above all to disaffected individuals with a lower social status. The article ends with a discussion of the political prospects of sortition being introduced as a democratic reform.

2 Responses

  1. “Thirdly, the mixed chamber is substantively preferred over an exclusively sortitioned chamber. While this is the case for both citizens and MPs, the latter remain comparably critical (66.7% are against). For citizens, however, it even gathers a relative majority of support (47.4 being in favour, 27.4 being neutral). This is comparable to (and even slightly higher than) their support for a sortitioned citizen panel, which is noteworthy given that the latter has much less political power and has even had some real political experience in Belgium.”

    Mixed chambers are the way to go.


  2. Arturo,

    > Mixed chambers are the way to go.

    The fact that MPs are somewhat supportive of this option is indicative that it may not be an effective way to confront the electoral oligarchy.

    The most promising early application of sortiton IMO is as an oversight body that monitors elected and appointed officials for conflicts of interests and corruption. Once this option is on the table, it may become irresistible when the next big corruption scandal breaks.

    Liked by 1 person

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