There is something wrong with our democracies; it is
in plain sight. For decades, they have been held hostage by the chronic
electoral fever of political parties, their tireless and constant pursuit of
votes and consensus. Absentee ballots and electoral volatility are growing exponentially
almost everywhere, as is the parallel decline in support and affiliation with
political parties. Why? For one simple reason; the world evolves, people are increasingly
informed and progressively feel the desire to express their thoughts and
participate in the management of public affairs, but the self-referentiality of politics distances them and this causes
frustration, dejection, anger, general distrust of politics and, even worse, of
But what is democracy?
Our conviction is that democracy means elections. We do not see a vote as a tool that contributes to democracy, but as a sacred principle with an intrinsic value. In short, we despise those who are elected but we venerate elections. However, the opinion of great thinkers of the past (Aristotle, Montesquieu, Rousseau) and the history of some famous political-state entities (Athens, Miletus, Venice, Parma, Brescia, Bologna, Florence, Siena, Pistoia, Perugia, Lucca, Frankfurt, Zaragoza, Girona and many others) demonstrate that elections were considered an aristocratic practice if not oligarchic.
What, then, was considered democratic, if elections were not? Drawing lots!
No, it is neither a joke nor a game. Drawing lots (also called sortition) is the central component of a form of government widely used in the past known as random (or aleatory) representative democracy. From the Latin alea, which means “dice”, random representative democracies are forms of indirect government (!), where the distinction between the governed and governments takes place through drawing lots and not elections.
According to many scholars, the application of drawing lots in our current democracies could solve two of their main crises. On one hand, the crisis of legitimacy, because it would establish an ideal of equitable sharing of political opportunities between citizens and professional politicians; and the crisis of effectiveness, because a national random representation would be freed from all political party logic, electoral games, media battles or bargaining laws.
This is why ODERAL was established – Organization for Random Representative Democracy (Organizzazione per la Democrazia Rappresentativa Aleatoria); contributing to the development of the drawing lots study and the dissemination of its practice within our democratic systems and institutions. Two projects are already underway:
The first is a structural reform of the National Parliament. The proposals are basically two:
- Italian Revolution – Manifesto
for transforming the Senate of the Republic into a citizens’ Assembly proposes
to reform one of the houses of the Italian Parliament making it made up of
randomly extracted citizens, while the other would continue to be elected
- A Parliament for two: coexistence
between elected and extracted proposes to compose one house or both of elected
citizens and selected by lot citizens. According to what proportion? There are
The second is a reform to be implemented in Municipalities. In this case, the proposals elaborated are three:
- An assembly of Citizens for
Italian Municipalities promotes the establishment of a citizens’ Assembly as
the second chamber of the Italian Municipal Councils, with advisory powers,
power of revision or deliberative power
- A Council for two: coexistence
between elected and extracted advises to compose the Municipal Councils of a
percentage of elected citizens and a percentage of citizens selected by lot
- Civic, thematic and temporary
Assemblies proposes the creation of deliberative Assemblies with limited
duration, composed by citizens selected by lot who represent in a proportional
way the entire citizenship, for deciding about specific issues of common
But ODERAL is not the only Organization with this purpose; There are many others worldwide.
Moreover, there are also numerous proposals already brought forward by other countries for the creation of legislative Assemblies of citizens replacing one of the two Chambers of Parliament. Just as many national processes have been carried out in recent years leading to the creation of citizen Assemblies aimed at deliberating on extremely important issues, such as the reform of electoral law and even of the Constitution.
We have to get back in the game, and not be content with an X on a symbol every five years, but rather to rethink our democratic systems from the foundation.
For a Democracy to all, for all, by all!