Sortition in Madrid

An article about the political activity of Pablo Soto in Madrid is mostly devoted to a popular initiative mechanism, but the last few paragraphs deal with an allotted body:

This month Madrid plans to launch Mr Soto’s most far-reaching reform yet – an “observatory” of 57 citizens selected at random to advise the city’s 57 councillors.

Mr Soto explains that an algorithm will ensure that observatory members will be representative of Madrid’s social diversity, with a one-year mandate and access to expert assistance to reach well-informed decisions.
Image caption A selection of the citizens’ proposals (translated from Spanish) featured on the platform in early January

The concept was inspired by the ancient Athenian practice of choosing citizens to form governing committees, and by more recent examples where governments have asked the people to decide on single issues to break political deadlock.

In Australia, a “citizens’ jury” was asked about the construction of a nuclear dump.

“The idea is as old as democracy itself,” he says. “A group of people chosen at random – if they have the time and capacity to study the issues in depth – can take very representative decisions.”

The Gilets Jaunes: what are the prospects for sortition?

An article in RTL by Laure-Hélène de Vriendt and AFP (original in French, Dec. 29, 2018):

Gilets Jaunes marching in Montmartre

Perspective: Some among the Gilets Jaunes propose using citizen participation via sortition in order to create a list for the European elections.

To be used in “the great debate” by the government, proposed by some “gilets jaunes” for the European elections, citizen participation via sortition is riding high, despite some limits emphasized by researchers.

Its detractors fear a “talk-shop where legitimacy is only up to chance”, undermining the foundations of elections. Its supporters praise “the equality of chance to participate in the debate” which sortition makes possible, a specialist in democratic systems working at the Paris VIII university.

In any case, the method has the support of the government: within the framework of “the great debate”, to be held in January and February as a response to the Gilets Jaunes movement, meetings of a hundred allotted citizens in each region will be held in order to give their opinion on the grievances mounting everywhere in France.

“The idea is to make sure that the Frenchpeople who are not necessarily those most involved in public life and public conversation can give their ideas about the debate and the proposals”, explained PM Édouard Philippe last week in Haute-Vienne.

“A much more diverse representation”
For prof. Loïc Blondiaux, a specialist in those matters in Paris I university, “it is a response to the crisis of representation”. Sortition “guarantees a much more diverse representation” because “if we look at the social makeup of Parliament, there are very few workers and wage earners, as opposed to the Gilets Jaunes and to the future assembly members of the “great debate”, emphasizes the researcher. “The representatives will not speak instead of the citizens but as citizens, it is a different voice”, he asserts.

Until now, civic participation via sortition never went above the local level in France. After an experiment during the summer with a national debate for the 5-year energy plan, it “reaches for the first time the national level, with the demand coming from below”, emphasizes Yves Sintomer.

Although citizens councils and participative budgeting using sorititon already exist in municipalities, he observes, “the only institutionalization of sortition at the national level is in trial juries”, going back to the revolution.
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Le Figaro: Allotted French-people to participate in the national debate

Le Figaro (Dec. 21st, 2018) [original in French]:

“The Yellow Vests”: Allotted French-people to particpate in the national debate

The government wishes to have French-people selected via sortition participate in each region in meetings organized in the framework of the great debate promised as a response to the “Yellow Vests” crisis, announced [French PM] Edouard Philippe today. On the eve of a sixth Sunday of mobilization in France, the government and the coalition are hoping that emergency measures being adopted and the promise of this great debate will allow to diffuse the crisis.

“We believe that it would be wise to proceed with the appointment, the selection, the meetings which, in each one of the regions, could bring together about 100 French citizens chosen by lot, at random, which will discuss the result of this debate and participate in some way in this debate”, said the Prime Minister during a visit to Haute-Vienne.

“The idea is to have within those group some French-people which are not necessarily those most involved in public life, in the public debate, being able to give their opinions in the debate and to give their opinions regarding the proposals”, he added.

The DNC to allot primary debate slots

The Democratic party has announced its planned schedule for primary debates for the 2020 presidential race. To handle the possibility of there being many candidates, the DNC plans, if necessary, to split the field into two groups, and having those groups debate in two consecutive nights. The split will be at random:

If necessary, depending on the number of candidates who meet the threshold, the DNC is prepared to split the first two debates in June and July into consecutive nights, said DNC Chairman Tom Perez. If that happens, the lineup will be determined by random selection, which will take place publicly.

“It’s conceivable that we have a double-digit field,” Perez told reporters on a conference call. “That is why we are planning for that contingency.”

Pacific Standard magazine gives some background and analysis:
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“When I was allotted, I was honored to participate in the process. But I was very quickly disillusioned.”

These are excerpts from an interview with an allotted member of the electoral committee of La France insoumise which appeared in Liberation in July [original in French, my translation].

The list of La France Insoumise for the European elections: “Everything was fixed by the directorate to favor little deals between friends”

By Maïté Darnault, reporter in Lyon

An activist in Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s movement, who participated in the debates of the electoral committee for appointing the candidates for the upcoming European elections, says she witnessed “scandalous” appointment methods and calls on activists to reject the list presented this Wednesday.

Lilian Guefli, an activist in La France insoumise (LFI), a member of the electoral committee which has just presented the movement’s list for the European elections, denounces “unhealthy procedures”, an atmosphere “of suspicion” within the committee, and says that Manuel Bompard (national secretary of the Left Party and campaign director for Jean-Luc Mélenchon) and his associates dominate the eligible positions.

You were on the electoral committee of LFI. What was your role?

I was allotted in April to participate in the electoral committee. For the European elections list we examined more than 600 candidates. 70 names were eventually selected. After a phase of comment by activists – we received more than 800 comments – we proceeded to the decide on the ordering. This ranking is the most important part because the European elections use proportional representation, and the ranking therefore determines who may realistically be elected.

What is it that you protest?

A deliberate, orchestrated manipulation. When I was allotted, I was honored to participate in the process. But I was very quickly disillusioned when I saw that in fact everything was already fixed by the directorate to favor little deals between friends and cliques which have already divided up the top positions on the list in advance. A list of names of members of the Left Party that are to be promoted was given to us by a member of the directorate. One candidate was installed in a top position without debate, so that she did not appear on the list of 70. I protest that Manuel Bompard, the “head” of the movement who has no real legitimacy with the base, is a member of the electoral committee and controls it. Being himself a candidate, he is at the same time judge and judged. That poses a real problem of independence for the committee.
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“So far the allotted have had no real power”

A recent article in L’Obs deals with the internal government of the French Left party La France insoumise (France Uprising). La France insoumise has employed sortition to select some of the delegates to its convention. The original in French is here. My translation – corrections welcome.

At La France insoumise, first fractures regarding internal operations

Marseille (AFP) – La France insoumise (LFI), created two years ago around the presidential platform of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is showing the first fractures regarding its internal operations while its leader has launched a European campaign.

At the beginning of the year, the deputy Clémentine Autain, a member of Ensemble, one of the components of the Left Front, had called for the movement to “consider how to invigorate internal pluralism”. At the time, she was noted for judging as severe the disagreements between the Communist Party and LFI, and wishing for discussions “without mockery or contempt”.

Today she presents things more calmly: “The movement is in flux, it is unfinished, there are necessarily tensions about who makes decisions […]. But we do not want ignore them.” And indeed discontent exists. The group Collectif des Insoumis démocrates (CID) was formed a few months ago and its petition “For democracy within LFI” has collected 600 signatures. Among the questions that it raises is this one: Who decided that the ecology, the pensions and the link between Emmanuel Macron and Europe would be the principal point for the European campaign presented by Mélenchon on Saturday?
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Quatrevalet: Sham participatory democracy in the energy domain

The following essay, dated June 14, was published in the online publication Contrepoints, which is published by the Liberaux organization.

The essay was written by Michel Quatrevalet, who is described thus:

Holding a B.Sc. in electrical engineering, Michel Quatrevalet spent 25 years in various operational positions in the industry. Over the last twenty years he has held various management and expert positions in multinational companies and in professional organizations in the areas of the environment and energy.

Original in French, my translation, corrections welcome.

PPE: Sham participatory democracy in the energy domain

Ms. Jouanneau [sic, this probably refers to Chantal Jouanno, president of the CNDP, -YG] allotted 400 participants for a one day workshop on the multi-year energy plan (PPE). Have the conditions been met for this experiment in participatory democracy to work?

The debate around the PPE was “enriched” by an experiment in participatory democracy. Ms. Jouanneau allotted 400 participants for a one day workshop on the multi-year energy plan.

We don’t know much about the procedure, we don’t know the names of the 10 moderators, nor which documents were provided to the participants. During the written debates on the site of the Commision for Public Debate, several participants complained that some essential points of view were missing, such as the conclusions of the 2012 Percebois‑Grandil taskforce or the opinions of the Academy of Sciences and Technology.

The conclusions will be presented on June 29th, that is at the end of the consultation period, at which point it would be no longer possible to dispute them.

A sham process

Such activities of “allotted citizen panels” could be productive but only if three necessary conditions are met:

  • An in-depth preparation of the participants that would make them sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject (energy is a highly technical subject),
  • A detailed verification by an organization independent of the parties involved (including independence of the government) that the information provided is factual, complete and objective,
  • A transparent process of nomination of the moderators and of the drawing up of the synthesis of the debates.

In reality, none of these conditions seems to have been observed. We can even fear the worst, reading the shamelessly biased report of the project’s management. The comments posted on the site of the debate were not heeded. Here are a few of them.
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