People's Assemblies Network

The only route to real democracy – A precise strategic proposal

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Several popular movements around the world are beginning an important rethinking about democracy and power. Origins and causes of protests are unemployment, poverty and fight against austerity, but yet the thoughts go further and fight the problems by attacking their roots: we live in oligarchies. However in the media and in the everyday life, we can hear that an immense majority of people is attached to democracy (but too often simply confused with freedom of speech). Democracy has a very strong power. As it has been “promoted” by the states since a long time ago to obtain legitimacy, it is deeply supported by people independently of the political spectrum. But while actual states rely on fake democracies (representative democracies), which are more and more criticized, the political alternative has to be constructed around a real democracy project.

Right or Left? Only the non-partisan camp can support democracy.

An efficient strategy has to be chosen to maximise the chances of real democracies to appear. First thing to be done is to allow a massive union of people around the new project, and on this point it is clear that economy is not a point of convergence. Medias and states have so manipulated the minds that there is no big majorities about an economic agenda.

Do we have to open or to close borders? What should be the role of the state?

In the same way, in my view, the left/right partisan rift is doomed to fail. Traditional parties counter creativity and change, and their past makes them divisive. For a new economic system to emerge, real debates will have to take place and to be followed by appropriate action, but today it is not the case, as our political systems do not allow that debates.

The proposal that will lead to a new political (and then economical) order, in favour of the people, has therefore to be cleared of partisan elements and to propose only a real democracy. This proposal has not to be abstract but very precise, in order to make secure the project, to avoid counter actions with oligarchic aims, and to obtain general trust.

Here is just an example of proposal, to show how I think the future of all the popular movements have to converge into a political force being able to reverse the current systems with a practical alternative. The question about which means and methods to use, to impose this agenda to the minority actually in power (and which will lose a lot), is still open (should an international party be created and enter election games? should mass protest reverse the institutions when critical mass is reached?). However, the practical agenda I propose is more based on a legal access to power (short transition with ancient political system form).

Why constitution, why sortition?

Constitution is central to political systems; it is mainly aimed to define power. Who make the new laws? What powers have citizens? How are chosen deputies? What are their obligations?

We do not know yet what the new constitution will be (even though it could be possible to define a new constitution first, and then to support and empower it), but what is crucial is that a constitution has not to be written by the politicians, or they will write their own rules, and so be able to take advantage of the situation. That is why sortition is supported in this article, as a way to avoid conflicts of interests. On that question, I recommend this video

A precise democratic political agenda

As soon as the new political movement is empowered, two people (to reduce the risk of corruption and betrayal, people randomly drawn from the actors involved in the movement for a long time) substitute each of the high functions previously in place (Presidency, Ministers .. with a salary equal to two times the minimum wage), to ensure the stability of the political transition, and during the 2-6 months period, time for the new constitution adoption and the new political system establishment.

One week after the takeover, during 2 days, every citizen has the opportunity to choose (by putting their names in polling stations) two men and two women they thinks being able and helpful to participate in the Constituent Assemblies (CAs) for a 1 to 6 months period. The members of the CAs will receive compensation equal to 2 times the minimum wage and insurance to return to work after the mandate.

2 weeks after this selection, the draw is held to determine the members of the 2 CAs (200 people each). Assemblies (located in the ancient assemblies locations if revolution has taken place, or working elsewhere if traditional parliamentarians are still present – but useless), working in cooperation (on different things and then analysing and criticizing each other’s proposals, some of their members are attached to present arguments and ideas of citizens from outside, by internet for example) and transparency (filmed and broadcasted sessions) have one month to work and propose a new constitution.

A referendum on the new constitution is conducted 2 weeks later, the citizens have the opportunity to indicate which parts of the proposal they refuse and why. If all constitution’s articles are more than 50% accepted, it shall enter into force as soon as possible (ancient system replacement, ignoring legal remedies, make ancient politicians resign…) If some parts are refused, CAs back to work for a week, and a new referendum is held on the new articles and changes. In that new referendum, people can choose if they want the new constitution to be activated even though some articles are not primarily accepted (if 60% or more choose that option, the new constitution is accepted even if the newly modified articles are still not mainly supported), and so on until the adoption of the new constitution. The new political system that democratically emerges will then be able to resolve all issues, particularly economic and social ones, which have not found real answers now because our political system give the power to the people defending particular interests.*

*This example is lacking reflection about how to make sure that ancient political system members will not conduct a coup, how to “govern” the country during the transition period (should transitioners trust the police and the army? Should another force be created?), is 1 month a fair duration to write a new constitution? Who will analyse the referendum results?

Nikita Malo

One Comment

  1. There is a good way to use a multi-stage form of sortition to select the members of a constitutional drafting convention and constitutional ratifying conventions, but such a method would have to be carefully designed to meet the severe skill requirements needed for constitutional engineering. To competently design a good constitution is a challenge similar to that of designing a Mars mission, a supercomputer, a chemical processing plant, or any other large. complex system with thousands of interacting components that must operate in a dangerous environment in which thousands of things can go wrong over an operating timespan of hundreds of years with catastrophic results.

    There are more competent engineers for a mission to Mars than there are competent constitutional engineers who can design a good constitution for a country that can withstand hundreds of years of efforts by clever people to subvert, misconstrue, or misapply it. I estimate there are less than 200 on the planet, and almost none of them are to be found in either the ranks of elected or appointed officials or among the academic community. Interestingly, one is most likely to find persons with the talent in the lobbying community, but even they would need to dedicate themselves to becoming top constitutional engineers over a period of at least 20 years, and they would need to have a way to make a living while they were doing that.

    The way sortition could be used would be to first randomly select one or more panels to interview and screen applicants for doing constitutional engineering. Then have a round of random selection from among those found to qualify, to select another panel of interviewers and screeners, and so forth until one finally got a convention of perhaps 50 top individuals. Then have the convention meet repeatedly over a period of years, alternating drafting and deliberation with holding hearings of citizens to get comments on their work thus far.

    When the drafting convention was sure it had thought of everything, the proposed constitution would be submitted to one or more ratifying conventions, selected with alternating random and filtering rounds.

    Finally, after passing the ratifying conventions, it could be submitted to the people for a final ratifying referendum.

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