Citizens’ Assembly in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The EU delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina reports:

The EU in BiH [Bosnia and Herzegovina] has launched the Citizens’ Assembly, an innovative model of deliberative democracy, which offers a unique opportunity for citizens in BiH to directly express their views on constitutional and electoral reform, to recommend concrete solutions for elimination of the discriminatory provisions in the BiH Constitution as well as for improvement of the Election Law. This process is based on two rounds of sortition, practice of random selection of citizens as a representative sample of a country’s population. During the preparatory phase of the process a team of local and international experts and the independent company specialized in polling representative samples of the BiH population (IPSOS) jointly developed the methodology for random selection of citizens’ and completed the first round of sortition. The letter signed by the EU, the US and OSCE Ambassadors in BiH was sent to 4,000 randomly selected households in BiH, inviting citizens to express their interest in participating in the Citizens’ Assembly.

The second round of random selection of citizens was held on Thursday, 4 November 2021 in Sarajevo, at the International Center for Children and Youth in Grbavica. Among those who applied to participate in the Citizens’ Assembly in BiH, the final group of a total of 57 members was randomly selected with the help of computer software and a draw. In order to ensure the impartiality and transparency of the process, unique registration codes were used instead of names, which citizens entered when applying for participation. The selection took into account the demographic characteristics of the group with regard to gender, age, residence and ethnic or national affiliation.

EU Ambassador to BiH Johann Sattler, US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson and Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH Dmitry Iordanidi spoke at the event, stressing the importance of involving citizens in the Constitutional and Electoral reform process and encouraging BiH authorities to monitor the work of the Citizens’ Assembly and consider their recommendations.

More information about the Citizens’ Assembly in BiH is available on the website www.skupstinagradjana.ba.

10 Responses

  1. Two (basic) questions.
    *** How many inhabitants of the State among the 4,000 randomly selected did accept to be in the Assembly ?
    *** Given the three groups in the State, (Moslem) Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, was the percentage of acceptance analogous for the three groups ?

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  2. This is a good example of things goiing out of hand. They (the organisers) just do what they want.
    I recognise that the result is only a “reccommendation” to the politicians who will decide what to do with it.
    Is this in any way compattible with the core values of sortition?
    As I state in the code of good practice https://www.academia.edu/42201754/Code_of_Good_Practice_for_allotted_mini_publics_involved_with_legislation

    Specific values for sortiton:
    The four democratic values: “equality, impartiality, representativeness and legitimacy” as suggested byDimitri Courant in “Thinking Sortition”

    The anti-corruption potential of sortition, the descriptive representativeness, diversity of cognitivestyles and life experiences

    I don’t think there is much left of it.

    Nevertheless we have to ask ourselves in how farwe will give ‘democracy’ in the hands of specialists who’s work we can not evaluate or control with theinherent risk of a ‘sortition technocracy’ .
    A small stratified panel can never, even with the best scientific method, contain the life experiences that a panel of several hundred citizens has to offer. The advantages and disadvantages of the methods used have to be carefully considered in view of the issue at hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul,

    Your points about not having the professionals run the show are very important.

    The matter of “contain[ing] the life experiences that a panel of several hundred citizens” is completely different, however. Where does the figure “several hundred citizens” come from? Why not “several dozen”, “several thousands” or “several millions”?

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  4. Yoram’s question should be addressed to representatives of the polling industry, who would have metrics to indicate the minimum number required to represent statistically significant population parameters. As for the maximum number, this is a function of the cost, the salience of the issue under consideration and the rational ignorance threshold.

    Like

  5. This is what they think is “information” about their system

    This process is based on two rounds of sortition, practice of random selection of citizens as a representative sample of a country’s population. During the preparatory phase of the process a team of local and international experts and the independent company specialized in polling representative samples of the BiH population (IPSOS) jointly developed the methodology for random selection of citizens’ and completed the first round of sortition. The letter signed by the EU, the US and OSCE Ambassadors in BiH was sent to 4,000 randomly selected households in BiH, inviting citizens to express their interest in participating in the Citizens’ Assembly.

    The second round of random selection of citizens was held on Thursday, 4 November 2021 in Sarajevo, at the International Center for Children and Youth in Grbavica. Among those who applied to participate in the Citizens’ Assembly in BiH, the final group of a total of 57 members was randomly selected with the help of computer software and a draw. In order to ensure the impartiality and transparency of the process, unique registration codes were used instead of names, which citizens entered when applying for participation. The selection took into account the demographic characteristics of the group with regard to gender, age, residence and ethnic or national affiliation.

    The link to the BH website offers automatic translation (and I choose English ;-) )

    What is the Citizens’ Assembly?

    The Citizens’ Assembly is a new form of democracy that facilitates decision-making at any level of government, whether city, country or international, as is the case with the European Union. Citizens’ assemblies are held in many countries around the world, and gather groups of citizens randomly selected taking into account demographic criteria such as gender, age, etc. This group represents a city or country in miniature. Citizens’ assemblies are a form of deliberative democracy, that is, democracy in which discussions and considerations within a group of randomly selected persons are a key component of the decision-making process. The role of the Citizens’ Assembly is to thoroughly analyze the given topic, hold discussions on various solutions, analyze the positive and negative sides, and then make final recommendations or decisions. Experts in the given field usually introduce participants to the subject in more detail.

    And so on.

    This is pure propaganda in my vieuw. While in the EU text they refer to a stratification by “The selection took into account the demographic characteristics of the group with regard to gender, age, residence and ethnic or national affiliation.” we don’t fins this criteria back in the BH texts. A stratification about “ethnic affiliation ???

    In the case of the BiH Citizens’ Assembly in 2021, a member can become any BiH citizen resident in the country and aged 18 and over. As a first step, invitation letters are delivered to 4000 randomly selected households in all municipalities in BiH. Among those who have applied to participate, the final group of 57 members of the Assembly is further randomly selected. Random selection is carried out with the help of computer software, which allows assembly members to be independent of political or other interests in decision-making.

    Ha, computer software to the rescue, what a farce.

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  6. Do we know how many out of the original 4,000 pool applied to participate? Unfortunately this is one population parameter that it is impossible to correct via stratification.

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  7. For all questions: General email: delegation-bih@eeas.europa.eu

    I plan to send an evaluation based on the “evaluation grid” and code of good practice.

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  8. Evaluation of the Citizens’ Assembly in BiH V 2021 11 26 short version

    05.11.2021 Europa.ba and http://www.skupstinagradjana.ba/

    For an evaluation we use the “evaluation grid”. Explanation in depth can be found in the “code of good practice”. https://independent.academia.edu/PNollen/Sortition-for-a-real-citizens’-representation .

    Although the BiH Assembly has no legislative powers the purpose is clearly to influence legislation. Therefore we evaluated the initiative as important to us all. Furthermore it could be seen as a precedent for other comparable initiatives.

    For us a “Citizens Assembly compiled by sortition” is a valuable democratic instrument.
    We recognise that our “Evaluation grid” and “Code of good practice” are only a first attempt to guide the citizens in the labyrinth of initiatives and applications. With every new “sortition initiative” there will be a need for better evaluation tools.

    1. The BiH CA (Bosnia and Herzegovina Citizens assembly) is a government initiative.

    Citizens’ Assembly (skupstinagradjana.ba) :
    Together with its partners, the European Union will strongly encourage the authorities to discuss and respond to the recommendations presented to them. The Citizens’ Assembly does not replace the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is obligatory to debate and vote on all issues related to constitutional and electoral changes.

    For simplicity we evaluate the initiative with the ladder of Arnstein and we estimate it is a level 4.
    https://360participation.com/models-of-participation/

    Conclusion:
    By definition the initiative can be seen as a possible “democratic instrument” in an electoral “representative” system (not part of a democracy *1) with an overall “Weak/Low performance “.
    https://www.idea.int/gsod-indices/democracy-indices

    2. The sortition system used.

    There is no explanation at all about the sortition system used. It is clearly a “stratified” random sampling in two stages.

    Europa.ba

    The letter signed by the EU, the US and OSCE Ambassadors in BiH was sent to 4,000 randomly selected households in BiH, inviting citizens to express their interest in participating in the Citizens’ Assembly.
    The second round of random selection of citizens was held on Thursday, 4 November 2021 in Sarajevo, at the International Center for Children and Youth in Grbavica. Among those who applied to participate in the Citizens’ Assembly in BiH, the final group of a total of 57 members was randomly selected with the help of computer software and a draw. In order to ensure the impartiality and transparency of the process, unique registration codes were used instead of names, which citizens entered when applying for participation. The selection took into account the demographic characteristics of the group with regard to gender, age, residence and ethnic or national affiliation.

    There is no information about response rate or the selection process of the initial 4000. “Households” is no individual invitation. “Randomly selected “ from what? Citizens eligible to vote (electoral register)? All residents? …

    The second round :

    The second round of random selection of citizens was held on Thursday, 4 November 2021 in Sarajevo, at the International Center for Children and Youth in Grbavica. Among those who applied to participate in the Citizens’ Assembly in BiH, the final group of a total of 57 members was randomly selected with the help of computer software and a draw. In order to ensure the impartiality and transparency of the process, unique registration codes were used instead of names, which citizens entered when applying for participation. The selection took into account the demographic characteristics of the group with regard to gender, age, residence and ethnic or national affiliation.

    There is no explanation about the role of the “computer software” and the “draw” of participants. But we notice a stratification with “gender, age, residence and ethnic or national affiliation.”

    In general we are very skeptic about “subjective stratification” mostly done by questionnaires (on paper or computer) or personal evaluation by specialists. Research shows us that most responses to those questions (and questionnaires in general) are not honest. But there is no information about the questions or the system used.

    https://news.yahoo.com/survey-34-white-college-students-173329031.html
    Survey: 34% of white college students lied about their race to improve their admission, financial aid odds

    https://www.infosurv.com/5-reasons-why-survey-respondents-dont-tell-the-truth/ 
    5 Reasons When Respondents are Knowingly Dishonest:
    1. Respondents want to appear better than they are. Whether that’s cooler, richer, more beautiful – respondents lie to build their self-worth.
    2. Respondents give socially desirable answers. Survey estimates of respondent voting are always higher than actual voter turnout. That’s because you’re supposed to vote, right? So respondents lie about whether they vote or not.
    3. They don’t want to answer questions about sensitive behavior. Sex. Personal finance. Drug and alcohol use. Illegal behaviors. Respondents are always more likely to lie about sensitive topics.
    4. People want to give the answer they believe will “help” or “please” the researcher. Many people just want to help you (the researcher) out. And so they make up responses based on their belief about what you need.
    5. Respondents believe they can influence the outcome of the research in their favor. If you absolutely love the product concept, you may say you will buy it more frequently than you actually think you will, in hopes of getting it introduced into the marketplace.

    https://www.decisionanalyst.com/blog/questionnairebias/
    When Results Lie: Tips for Overcoming Questionnaire Bias

    Conclusion: no transparency about the sortition system used.

    3. Number of citizens appointed by sortition:

    From the original 4000 who responded (volunteers) 57 are selected.
    In regard to the issue at hand we doubt that the use of volunteers is acceptable at all. There is no motivation about the claim of “representativity” by 57 citizens.

    https://www.skupstinagradjana.ba

    This group represents a city or country in miniature

    . From
    https://www.academia.edu/42201754/Code_of_Good_Practice_for_allotted_mini_publics_involved_with_legislation

    Specific values for sortiton:
    The four democratic values: “equality, impartiality, representativeness and legitimacy” as suggested byDimitri Courant in “Thinking Sortition”

    The anti-corruption potential of sortition, the descriptive representativeness, diversity of cognitive styles and life experiences.

    – Obligatory participation (civic duty). Those who volunteer, or self-select themselves to be candidates, are seeing themselves as competent, even though they may not be, their self-confidence might be arrogance. By contrast, persons perceiving themselves as unworthy of running might possess citizen’s principal quality, according to Aristotle, caution . Voluntary participation contradicts the demand of ‘representativeness’ , since the panel is no longer an ‘image of society’. If the system is not regarded as ‘representative’ it becomes difficult to defend it as ‘legitimate’ in any way. In case of a system in which everyone is asked to participate is implemented, but people are allowed to refuse (which is virtually impossible to avoid), we get nevertheless a kind of ‘voluntary’ participation at the end of the selection process. It then is important that an independent team who guides the procedure visits those who refuse to participate and motivates them to take part in the sampling. This team can also take care that various measures that encourage participation (fee, assistance, ..) are provided. If however a citizen still refuses to participate after this selection process, this does not seem to effect the representativeness in an unacceptable way.

    Conclusion: There is no explanation at all about the choice of the numbers of selected citizens (4000/58) and the use of “households” and volunteers. As far as we know they are not at all “representative” (statistically / descriptive) and, in regard to the whole system used, legitimacy is highly questionable. *2

    4. Duration of the appointment:
    https://www.skupstinagradjana.ba

    Citizens’ assemblies are by definition long-term processes and multi-day meetings in the time span of several weeks. For example, it can be two or three weekends in a row.

    This is short enough to comply with the criteria mentioned in the evaluation grid and criteria for good practice.
    https://www.academia.edu/42201754/Code_of_Good_Practice_for_allotted_mini_publics_involved_with_legislation

    1 – Short term (Single subject, couple of days/couple of weekends).
    The term of the appointment has a lot of implications who should be weighed carefully. In a first step we are evaluating this level with the four democratic values “equality, impartiality,representativeness and legitimacy” as suggested by Dimitri Courant in “Thinking Sortition”

    .Equality: It is obvious that the longer the proposed or estimated term the more people are practically excluded. This is contradictory to the ‘inclusive equality’ sortition claims. We also need and expect a high response rate because the panel or assembly has the right to decide and needs representativeness and legitimacy. Therefore a short term favors equality, representativeness and legitimacy. An activity of short duration has several advantages. The pros and cons of longer periods of time will have to be compared. (Short = a day or a couple of days or week-ends)- Short periods of time lead to a faster rotation and thus a greater participation

    .- Short duration also facilitates the return to ‘normal life’
     
    and avoids ex-post corruptibility. It seems necessary to put in place a protective legislation similar to the Jury in the judicial context.- Long periods of time lead to higher probability of manipulation corruption and coercion. The chances that the advantages of sortition compared with the electoral system can be maintained are deteriorating every daythe mandate is longer.- Long periods of time discriminate candidates who cannot afford a long absence, or do not want to do so.- Long periods of time may have a higher professionalism as a result, but it has to be considered whether thisis an advantage or disadvantage. Higher professionalism means that the panel differs from an “image of society”. The risk of a ‘new elite’ increases with the ‘iron law of Michels’ lurking beyond the corner.Temporality is crucial to avoid oligarchisation

    Conclusion: ok

    5. Right to decide: not applicable

    6. Manipulation:

    https://www.skupstinagradjana.ba

    In the case of the BiH Citizens’ Assembly in 2021, the procedure is initiated by the Office of the Special Representative of the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina in consultation with other partners who support the existing process of constitutional and electoral reforms. The process was designed and managed by the Coordination Team, independent of the authorities. The aim is to introduce a process in which citizens can speak directly about issues that shape the future of the country and thus supplement the decision-making process on difficult political issues.
    ….
    Experts in the given field usually introduce participants to the subject in more detail.
    ….

    There is no information about the selection process of the “experts” to hear. Nor is there any information about the “partners who support the existing process of constitutional and electoral reforms”.

    Conclusion: there is no information that indicates the impartiality of the “experts to hear” or any other information that can be helpful.

    7. Special applications:

    This event is “deliberative “ in the sense that it includes discussions amongst participants. Maybe the issue at hand can make it necessary.

    https://www.psa.ac.uk/sites/default/files/conference/papers/2017/Blind%20Break%20and%20Invisible%20Hand_0.pdf 

    p16: Indeed it is hard to see what ‘descriptive’ representatives could do other than register their preferences/beliefs via voting (all votes carrying exactly the same weight), as the differences in the ‘illocutionary force’ of the speech acts of individual members of such an assembly would destroy its aggregate representativity. As Hanna Pitkin puts it: If the contemplated action is voting, then presumably (but not obviously) it means that the [descriptive] representative must vote as a majority of his constituents [i.e., those who resemble him] would. But any activities other than voting are less easy to deal with. Is he really literally to deliberate as if he were several hundred thousand people?
     
    p 12: Sortition is generally of marginal interest to deliberative democrats, as the emphasis is primarily on internal procedural issues (how to establish the ‘ideal speech situation’) rather than representativity. The ‘forceless force of the better argument’ is such that it matters little who gets to deliberate – Jon Elster is content with ‘citizens’ (Elster, 1998, pp. 1, 98) – so long as the group includes representatives of the previously-marginalised groups chosen by the sponsors of the deliberative forum

    p 16 Epistemic and deliberative democrats seek to bridge the active/descriptive divide by combining sortition and small-group face-to-face deliberation. However they overlook the fact that small-group deliberation breaches the descriptive representation mandate on account of both the small numbers involved and the random (in the pejorative sense) biases introduced by imbalances in the speech acts of the participating individuals.
     
    They also rely too heavily on the ability of the blind break to select political officials impartially, thereby ignoring the increased vulnerability to ex-post corruption for political functions other than indicating preferences via voting in secret. Epistemic and deliberative democrats are more concerned with the quality of the decision outcome and the procedural norms governing face-to-face deliberation, representativity not figuring very highly in their priorities.
     

    Conclusion: The special situation and the issues at hand can allow deliberation (other than with oneself) and discussion amongst the participants. On the other hand this increases all kinds of risks.

    8. Total cost: There is no public bookkeeping. Who pays whom how much to do what.

    Conclusion: no information at all.

    General conclusion:

    There is an overall lack of transparency and information about nearly every aspect of the initiative. There seems to be a lot of people and organisations involved but only a few “random selected “ citizens who volunteer to participate.

    We can end with the motivation of the code for good practice:
    https://independent.academia.edu/PNollen/Sortition-for-a-real-citizens’-representation

    Motivation:
    Some people are trying to resolve the crisis in the electoral representative system (an electoral aristocracy), which is in our opinion a crisis of trust, with another system of which the modalities of application they impose are also based on trust.
    -You have to trust the organising committee.
    -You have to trust the agenda setting and mode of operation.
    -You have to trust the institution and people performing the selection of the participants where sortition is only one element of the selection.
    -You have to trust the proposed sortition system and its application to work with (manipulated sortition and selection system, the use of unsuitable data files, mixed panels, long term appointment, low participation levels, live streaming of the discussions, the use of volunteers, and so on ).
    -You have to trust the people who select the experts to hear.
    -You have to trust the moderators of the discussions.
    -You have to trust the people assembling and writing the reports (and believe me, this is not to underestimate).

    And we don’t.

    This way they risk to discredit a valuable democratic instrument

    Kind Regards

    Paul Nollen

    http://www.meerdemocratie.be

    *1 – Democratie:
    Dimitri Courant (june 29 2020 5:46 pm): En effet il y a une différence énorme entre “pouvoir de proposer” et “pouvoir de décider”. Comme je le dis dans l’article, la question pour déterminer la nature d’un régime, peu importe l’échelle, c’est : ” à la fin qui décide? Qui détient le pouvoir souverain ?”
    Si c’est une personne c’est une monarchie, si c’est petit groupe c’est une oligarchie (avec ses différents types : ploutocratie, phallocratie, géontocratie, klérocratie..) ; si c’est le peuple c’est une démocratie.
    Une assemblée tirée au sort imposant ses vues au peuple sans ce dernier ne puisse avoir le dernier mot est une klérocratie, donc un type particulier d’oligarchie.

    *2 see also “Hanna Pitkin – the concept of representation”.

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  9. When I ask for “better evaluation” tools I mean that criticism is not enough. I know how they will try to avoid the “representativity” argument by using the “diversity” definition instead. This way they can do what they want. Apart from the “evaluation” tool we need a “development” tool. I got the idea from IDEA https://www.idea.int/data-tools/data/electoral-system-design for the design of electoral systems. With the knowledge we have today about the use of sortition in the political domain it must be possible to already design something useful. By working that way there is also the obligation of a clear definition of the steps to take and a “for and against” of every choice.

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