Recently the Dutch online newspaper De Correspondent published another article on failing electoral representation. In the article, the Antwerp (Belgium) resident Manu Claes tells about the solution for the Antwerp highway upgrade gridlock. After years of struggle between the local government and affected residents, a compromise was devised by workshops consisting of citizens, experts and officials, exchanging their ideas. Claes sees this form of participative democracy as the way out not only for the electoral dead end in his city, but for the failing goverment model of the European Union as well.
Is Claes advocating sortition? Well, yes and no. In the article, sortition is not explicitly mentioned as a solution, and Claes clearly doesn't want to do away with elections altogether. Claes is advocating a participative democratic toolbox, of which the Antwerp style workshops are just one tool. Citizens' assemblies, as organized in Ireland, are mentioned as another tool in the box. And all these tools together, argues Claes, should not just become an add-on to elections, but should become the mainstream model for democracy, with elections becoming the add-on. In his book, Red de democratie! ("Save democracy!") Claes acknowledges that there's a legitimacy problem here, because minorities could unjustfully claim to represent the majority. Claes' defence could have been to openly and more strongly advocate sortition, but he comes up with a counter offense: "This same problem holds true for many politicians who were elected only by a minority of the voters."
Still, the fact that elections are strongly critisized and that participative democracy, including sortition, is presented as the way out, is welcome news. Mainstream Dutch newspapers seem to underreport sortition, but over the past years the new kid on the block, De Correspondent, has regularly put it in the spotlights. De Correspondent has 60.000 paying members and is the (self proclaimed) fastest growing journalistic platform of The Netherlands.
Some quotes from the article:
"Electoral democracy is a zero sum game. Your gain is the someone else's loss."
"The vague implications of an election result are God's gift for those elected wanting to push their own agendas."
"Citizens identify more easily with the outcome of a citizens' panel, than with a compromise struck by politicians."
For more information on De Correspondent, see also: The Correspondent