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EU sortition assembly and legitimacy 2

July 20, 2017
  1. Criteria for permutation:

In this section, we scrutinize the precise make-up of the candidate sortition assemblies along five main dimensions: 1.) power or function; 2.) institutionalization; 3.) institutional embedding; 4.) institutional level; 5.) publicity. In what follows we shall briefly lay out the different permutations possible along each dimension. If not otherwise mentioned, we accept the description and conditions set by the authors.

  1. Power or function:
  2. Decision-making (or legislative)
    1. Drafts legislation
    2. Vetoes legislation
  3. Deliberation-making (or consultative)
    1. Advises ahead of legislative process (upstream deliberation)
    2. Advises in legislative process (downstream deliberation)

For sortition assemblies, the power or function may divide along either of two lines. A sortition assembly can be decision-making in the sense that it exercises legislative power of its own. That power can take the form of drafting legislation or that of vetoing legislation passed by the legislative power. Otherwise, a sortition assembly can be “deliberation-making”[1] insofar as it operates in a consultative role, in which case it may either intervene upstream of the legislative process or downstream thereof.

If upstream, following Kies (2016), the assembly may provide the legislative body with input in the form of public hearings, questionnaires, emails through an information system, etc. by means of which assembly members contribute information, prior to the legislative process, “concerning the acceptability of its policy, the definition of its objectives, and the tools to be mobilized in order to reach them” (5). Following the input phase, the legislative body may be required to provide assembly members feedback on their contributions. If downstream, following Boswell (2015), the assembly may provide the legislative body with input in the form of “scrutiny forums, contestatory reviews and feedback funnels” (Felicetti et al. 2016: 3), which embeds deliberative inputs directly in the legislative process.

  1. Institutionalization
  2. By executive fiat
  3. By popular referendum
  4. Self-institutionalization

Any new body, be it sortition assembly or more conventional, requires an initial institutionalization. The question is then at the hands of whom. The task of creating and institutionalizing a sortition assembly could conceivably be taken up by either of three groups: by government use of executive fiat; by the voting public’s choice via popular referendum; by a third-party organization’s advocacy and influence.

  1. Institutional embedding
  2. Paired with legislative body
  3. Unpaired with legislative body

A sortition assembly may be institutionally embedded in various ways, of which two are particularly important for the proposal put forward by Gastil and Wright. The assembly may either be paired or unpaired with a legislative body. If the former, assembly members will have regular interaction with the legislative body members. If the latter, assembly members will operate independently of the legislative body members.

  1. Institutional level
  2. Local
  3. Regional
  4. National
  5. Supernational (EU-level)

The sortition assembly’s institutional level is a natural complement to its institutional embedding. For this, we envision four possibilities: local, regional, national or supernational (i.e. EU-level). Though more or less self-explanatory, these levels can be further elaborated as follows. If a sortition assembly gathering at the local level and deliberating on local problems draws its membership from localities, cities, agglomerations and counties, another deliberating on the problems proper to a group or the whole of localities, cities, agglomerations and counties draws its membership from the broader region and so operates at a regional level. Likewise, a sortition assembly may deliberate on problems facing a group or the whole of regions within a nation at which point it draws its membership from the nation and operates at a national level. Finally, should a sortition assembly deliberate on problems confronting a group or the whole of the nations (within the European Union), it draws its membership from those nations and operates at a supernational level.

  1. Publicity

The final permutation criterion concerns the way in which the sortition assembly and its members interface with macropolitical deliberation and the broader public sphere. For this criterion, the questions of the assembly’s transparency and manner of diffusing its deliberation are predominant. Following Karpowitz and Raphael (2014), transparency breaks down into two categories: transparency concerning argumentation within the assembly and the assembly’s internal organization. More specifically, we may ask whether the assembly successfully communicates its conclusions, its reasons and evidence therefor, the norms and values underlying those reasons, and rival views and proposals set aside during the course of deliberation. Likewise, it is important to question the extent to which the assembly reveals the norms, conditions and objectives as well as the logistical support and institutional design which shape its everyday workings (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014: 30).

As to the diffusion of results, the sortition assembly may choose to share its results in either of two ways: “decisional” or “dialogic” (Karpowitz and Raphael 2014: 31). On the basis of the array of proposals, reasons, evidence, norms and values put forward during deliberation, the assembly will issue a recommendation. Whereas a recommendation underlining the conclusions arrived at shows a more “decisional” character, a recommendation highlighting the role of reasons and evidence manifests a more “dialogic” character. While neither is a pure type, the difference in emphasis may alter the broader public sphere’s engagement with and acceptance of the recommendation made.

[1] Niemeyer (2014), cited in Curato and Böker (2016).

[2] For examples of supernational or EU-level civic deliberation, if not sortition assemblies, see Kies (2016) on the consultative website “Your Voice in Europe” and Olsen and Trenz (2014) on 2009’s transnational deliberative experiment “Europolis”.

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