Major Dutch newspaper publishes article advocating sortition

Submitted by webmaster on Sat, 28-09-2019 - 19:10

While in neighboring countries sortition and deliberative democracy are clearly on the rise, the Netherlands does not really seem to take part in this, at least not at the national level. However, sortition does seem to gain some ground among the country's elite. Recently NRC Handelsblad, one of the main Dutch newspapers, that used to have a tendency to neglect sortition-related developments, published two articles on it: one focusing on the newly installed sortition-based council in German speaking East-Belgium, the other one by long-time journalist and columnist Caroline de Gruyter - who would by many 'populists' be regarded as a member of 'the elite'. Mrs. De Gruyter gives a general endorsement of sortition, albeit in addition to elections, not to replace them.

The article, titled Should we draw by lot instead of vote? presents both a brief historic overview of sortition, and a good overview of current developments as they have been transpiring in Belgium, Germany, France, Scotland, Ireland, the UK, and Poland. Interestingly it tells the story of two presidents,  Emmanuel Macron (France) and Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), who got to know about sortition, and adopted it. President Macron personally thanked David Van Reybrouck, the author of Against Elections (the book is mentioned in the article), with a 'thank you from the bottom of my heart', and President Steinmeier, who at first rejected citizens' assemblies, later on praised the Irish Citizens' Assembly on abortion and wished for some 'Irish courage' for Germany.

Attention is also paid to what makes some citizens' assemblies succeed, and other ones fail. Main conclusion: politicians holding executive power must take CAs seriously and  there must be a clear prior agreement on what should happen with the conclusions and recommendations of CAs.

As mentioned, the article is titled "Should we draw by lot instead of vote?", and in the final section Mrs. De Gruyter leaves the answer to this question to some insiders in the field of sortition, which comes down to 'No, draw by lot just to improve representative democracy'.

From the recent increase of attention that is being paid to sortition, one could conclude that in the Netherlands, the Overton window on sortition is moving slowly; slower than in other Western European countries, but at least it is moving.

Source: Voortaan dan maar loten in plaats van stemmen? NRC Handelsblad, September 20th, 2019