“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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Are “citizen” parties for real?

The following op-ed by Yves Patte, sociologist and community organizer, was published in August on the Belgian website La Libre (original in French, my translation).

Are “citizen” parties for real?

A few months before the elections, have you noticed how at some point all the parties seem to be “citizen” parties? In their name (“citizen list”, “citizen party”), as well as in their platforms (“re-empower the citizens”).

Naturally, we are not going to complain. It would be grouchy to be too particular now that the political world is attending to the wish for citizen participation. However, we must remain careful and ask ourselves whether this sudden mass conversion to the faith of citizen participation is sincere. After “greenwashing”, are we witnessing a case of “citizenwashing”? So, how, as citizens, can we assess the sincerity of a list or a party that calls itself a “citizen” list or party? Of course, merely printing “citizen” on its campaign posters is not enough, nor is inserting this word into its platform.

Drawing ideas from citizen movements does not legitimate declaring a party to be a citizen party either. It is not because a party promotes local agriculture, short supply chains, social connections or “zero waste” that it would be “a citizen party”.

What is the citizen?

We know that democracy, since its origins, gave a central place to the “citizen” in managing the city-state. It is he (and today fortunately, her) who had political rights and duties, who participates “in the power to judge and to order” (Aristotle). There is a link between democratic organization (that is to say when power resides with the “demos”) and the citizens being able to take on the functions of the democratic organization.
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Myth No. 2: Democracy is about electing representatives

In an article in The Washington Post, James Miller, professor of politics at the New School for Social Research, enumerates 5 myths about democracy. Here is myth #2:

Myth No. 2: Democracy is about electing representatives

In 2004, Stanford political scientist Larry Diamond defined democracy in terms familiar to most Americans. Among other things, it is “a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.” This view is echoed whenever an election rolls around. As one local paper’s editorial board wrote last year, “Democracy depends on citizens voting.” In Australia, voting is compulsory.

But this isn’t the only way to ensure the people’s input. Ancient Athens selected almost all significant officials not by voting but randomly, by drawing lots. This is how we select juries today, for the same reason: It nullifies the advantages of the wealthy and well-known, and it means a political order in which citizens engage in public life on equal terms, ratifying Aristotle’s conclusion that “from one point of view governors and governed are identical.” As Montesquieu wrote, “The suffrage by lot is natural to democracy, as that by choice is to aristocracy.”

Chris Hedges interviews David Van Reybrouck on sortition

Good interview of David Van Reybrouck by Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who writes for Truth Dig and has a show on RT.

Chris Hedges: “Aristotle would I think have defined our democracy as an oligarchy.”

David Van Reybrouck: “For a lobbyist it is much harder to influence public decision-making when the decision-makers are drafted by lot, and do not have an interest in getting re-elected, and do not have an interest in raising campaign money.”

“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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Pache: Make democracy great again

Charlie Pache, a Swiss sortition activist, has a recent TEDx talk titled Make democracy great again in which he offers his audience a system of single-issue allotted citizen panels.


What is sortition?

A way to select. This method uses chance instead of voting – which is the way used in an electoral system – to designate rulers or to decide on a precise issue.

How does it work in practice?

For example, to designate a moderator we cast a die. The n-th person on the caster’s left becomes the moderator, n being the number on the dice.  The exiting moderator casts the dice after twenty minutes or less if they resign before. Therefore, the power turns clockwise. Throughout history many such uses of chance exist.

Ancient Greeks used it to designate judges. Also nowadays many people use or promote its usage: The sortition Foundation, Ateliers constituant in France or The equality-by-lot blog. The latter suggests we should employ chance to create mini-publics used to deliberate on a precise subject.

What if we designate an insane person?

We can think of ways to end a moderator’s mandate. For instance in a previous version to select a moderator, if a third of the assembly put their thumb up the moderator’s mandate terminates. The unique and time limited mandate also plays a role in avoiding dictatorships. This kind of counter-measure exists in an elective system but is seldom used. A sortition based system would used them extensively.

What if we select an incompetent person?

The answer to the previous question might also apply here. We can add that the sorted people can call for experts on precise subject for a specific time period.

Why and when should we use sortition instead of elections?

We can use chance in numerous cases. It, however, should not replace elections but complement it. There are also apolitical uses for sortition like dealing with a queue or within education.

P.S: this post originally comes from www.stochocratie.org, if you want to add questions or responses to this FAQ, I’ll be happy to read them.