Some Sortition Green Shoots in the Netherlands

Submitted by webmaster on Sun, 11-10-2020 - 19:11

Lately, there have been some calls for sortition in the Netherlands, hence a brief overview.

  • On October 7th, de Volkskrant, one of the main Dutch newspapers, published an article calling for a national Citizens' Assembly on climate change. The current climate agreement (2019) was the product of special interest groups, and is not sufficiently supported by the general population. The Citizens' Assembly is proposed as an addition to this agreement. The outline seems to differ from the French approach somewhat, because there is no call for proposals to be subject to referendums; parliament would have to vote on them; an explanation is required in case of rejection.
  • Another citizens' initiative is the proposal named Farmer-Citizen Dialogue, aiming to alleviate or solve conflicts that have arisen between intensive, competitive agricultural production and the 'natural' environment in the small and densely populated area of the Netherlands. Last year, farmers took to The Hague, the national seat of government, on their tractors several times demonstrating strong dissatisfaction with current government environmental policies. As is the case in the proposed Citizens' Assembly on climate, clear mention is made of citizens drawn by lot. G1000, a well-known and experienced organizer of citizens' assemblies in the Netherlands, is one of the initiators. G1000 has an interesting and possibly unique approach in organizing citizens' assemblies, aiming to put high emphasis on the self-organizing capabilities of deliberating citizens and lower emphasis on both organized moderation and information.
  • Code Orange, a movement originating from local politics and aiming for democratic renewal, focusing on involving citizens, and open to including elements of sortition, will run in the March 2021 elections for the House of Representatives. Quite surprisingly, the well-known, out of the ordinary, local The Hague politician Richard de Mos will be in the lead for Code Orange, giving the movement the much-needed popular appeal in order to have a reasonable chance at entering the House.
  • On October 13th, seven political parties in the Dutch House of Representatives, roughly comprising the left-wing and christian-oriented parties, requested government to investigate the possibility of organizing citizens' assemblies concerning the energy transition and climate change. Interestingly this request is supported by two christian-oriented parties currently in the four-party government, the influential right-of-center Christian Democrats being one of them. The theme of involving citizens seems to resonate well with the Christian Democrat tradition of connecting diverse groups in society. When the request was voted on in the House, the right-of-center liberal party VVD voted in favour of it; the so called populist right-wing movement, voted against it. The request was adopted by a large majority of 127 out of 150 votes.
  • On October 8th, de Volkskrant also published an article calling for sortition, and a sortition-based senate to begin with. The article was a response to an article written by economist Noreena Hertz in which neoliberal capitalism was portrayed as the root of many of today's problems, like loneliness. The writer of the pro-sortition article asks where neoliberal capitalism came from, and points to elections, as a neoliberal way to organize politics, with fiercely competing parties and short-term party interest at its core.