Deliberative condorcism and participative democracy proposals for a peoples’ Europe – Andrea Surbone (PER) on #CitizensRoute73

andreaThere have been decades of direct democracy experimentation, and under this name has become overwhelmingly manifold forms of citizen participation in politics, among which there is the participatory democracy I want to talk about. …

Read here the contribution by Andrea to the #CitizensRoute73 on the Workshop “Political projects to fuel a common European public debate” on Sunday

Let’s start with a little allegory.

The issue has made now thorny and entering the ranking of the most debated topics on a daily basis; and a response becomes urgent.

It has been thought, therefore, in a panel discussion. And now comes the first difficulty: a panel discussion with three experts more important, the fans of which covers almost the entire national sentiment, or a round table enlarged, inclusive, that listen to the positions of all? Because it is clear to anyone that a response, a summary will result from this symposium.

Struggles long and hard, until you choose the inclusive formula; be born, so, the Round Table on Sex of Angels that immediately begins its work. They include the three more important – a christian, a muslim and a rabbi – but also an animist, a buddhist, an esoteric, a hindu, and away we go; even a self-styled holy man, followed by very few, who was pronounced dead but awoke after a reasonable period of afterlife.

Kindled the discussion right away, swallowed up by the most learned bickering between the three weight members; others are timid interventions, once dormant somewhere dense citation of imponderables meanings from one of the three. The media follow with passion, interpret the meanings imponderable, launch anathemas eschatological to the people more and more terrified, helpless in the face of so much wisdom and depth of culture.

Until one day, it was almost to the preset for the work, the self-styled holy man spoke up: «You do not know, you have not seen. Angels have no sex; because they are made only of pure ecstasy, and their just a simple look to blend in the most fulfilling of lovemaking»; and he was silent.

For long minutes there was silence, full of cogitations; then, synthesis was.

And you believe that any law under debate is that different from the symposium on the sex of angels? Do you really think that only one of Tajani, Pittella and Fitto has the right answer? Or perhaps this may lie in the thought of even one absolutely minority?

Let us believe: pure proportional; and synthesis will be.

I wanted to start from the proportional because in my mind is the only electoral system that reaches two fundamental pillars of democracy: the highest representation possible and the axiom equal weight for each vote.

However, the highest possible representation implies that elected representatives commit themselves with all their power to establish governmental alliances in order to reach an absolute majority that can guarantee the necessary governmental stability. A commitment and an effort that sometimes generates majority compositions, or weak or clumsy, and does not coincide around a precise program.

How do you do then?

At this point, a clarification is needed: it is also possible to promulgate the best electoral law and the best parliamentary regulation but if our representatives are not up to their task – as in Italy from long time – the malfunction and loss of democracy will have anyway; and with “up to their task” I mean parliamentarians who, however, deployed each in defense of their political agenda, however, have greater regard for the common good than for the sectarianism; and to this common good they devote themselves with great professionalism. To achieve this, parties need to return to civil society, welcoming it as a precious source of stimuli instead of rejecting it; and people ready and willing to play this role as promoters but also controllers on the work of parliamentarians. It is no longer the time of the simple delegation through the vote; it is now that politics opens up to the civil commitment of all of us citizens.

Let us, then, come back to the question: how do you do it?

Forgive me if I refer to the italian situation; but the usual way of doing so is to intervene on electoral law to reduce representation (access thresholds are more or less high) or increase the weight of the winner (the majority prize). Both of these solutions are clearly diminishing of democracy and, above all, do not solve the underlying issue: building an absolute majority.

What I want to propose today, however, is the ability to achieve good government stability without necessarily having to resort to an absolute majority: the Condorcet Method.

With the Condorcet’s Method wins the most favored proposition, which may not be the first choice of some but simply the second choice of many: in order that a proposal wins, in fact, it must wins over all the other in the two-handed clashes; and to do so, the relative majority is sufficient. Thus, enormous energies, both personal and temporal, are being freed, currently used only to succeed in keeping the absolute majority; forces that will become more productive for the country if used to legislate.

I repeat the clarification before: it is necessary for an “ideal” Parliament, whose main objective is the common good.

Yes because the obscure face of the Condorcet Method is that it also allows great strategic games: for example, I vote for my proposal as the first and I vote as the last the proposal that is the most accredited to beat my proposal, lowering the overall liking. This may be the case, but democratic practice will prompt parliamentarians to vote responsibly, in which preferential arrangements will really reflect their thinking; but not only: the Condorcet Method exalts the responsibility of the single – sanctioned, in Italy with Article 67 of the Constitution, by the absence of mandate – and melds it well with party’s coherence; when, on the other hand, we are now accustomed to seeing the absence of a mandate as a full freedom to wander, also pushed by the light puff of wind, between one party and another; while the possibility to order more choices, according to their own preferences, allows, as I have just said, the union between the absence of mandate and party’s coherence. The Condorcet Method, therefore, is far more effective and efficient than the current choice between approval and refusal; effective because it needs a relative majority – provided that it is relevant; in a Parliament divided almost equally between a dozen parties, all of them extremely identitarian, of which the major does not reach 15% and the minor is more than 7% I fear that the only possibility is to return to the vote… -; efficient because it allows the most welcome proposal to emerge.

Since I am not a politician or a university professor, I am a simple citizen, I am especially concerned with the operativeness of any system; and then how would work this Parliament à la Condorcet?

We start from parliamentary appointments.

Today, at least in Italy, we are faced with quarrels taught just to lower the necessary quorum (I am referring to the appointment of the President of the Republic) in order to succeed with non-plebiscite forces to elect his candidate; with the Condorcet Method, on the other hand, it’s enough only one vote and a relative majority. Oligarchy, will you ask me? No, on the contrary: the wise choice of the candidate so that he is representative of his own instances but with the stature to be acknowledged also worthy of the opponents. And the parliamentary debate that preceded the vote à la Condorcet would be “naturally” deliberative, since it is important not only the weight of its party but also the appreciation of the other parties.

Deliberative, in fact, in our thinking is that methodology of discussion aimed at the search for the common good, even in the affirmation of its ideological identity. And forgive me if I keep repeating this concept: I consider it, in fact, absolutely fundamental to a renewed democracy.

Regarding legislation, however, we propose a path that provides, on the subject in question, a deliberation on various texts of laws after which the vote à la Condorcet will select the most welcome text; text that will pass to the parliamentary committee where, in a further and even more thorough deliberation, the text itself will be improved by the contribution of the Commission’s members and expert hearings.

We have given a name in Italian to this idea of parliamentary’s path: condorsismo deliberativo, which I could translate into deliberative condorcism.

We also have another proposal: a real participatory democracy that completes the legislative parliamentary process just described.

For a long time, there has been a debate about crisis of democracy, almost as reciting the de profundis. The problem, however, is that such discussions are conducted in such a way as to lead us to a further loss of democracy, proposing, in fact, solutions ranging from the government of the technicians, the oligarchy paradigm, to populism, the possible harbinger of the dictatorship.

Both solutions are based on the alleged inferiority of the people.

How can we then answer?

Strongly asking for participation, knowing what commitment are asking for people; but here we take for granted the civic commitment.

Let’s take a step back to look at us.

The mankind is the same as that at the time of Herodotus, and in the end his political aims are always the same; modern complexity – the great anathema with which the people are kept away – is just an excuse; in short, complexity has increased but in technology and in rules, not in humanity; while it is true that not all of us are able to distinguish between technicalities, it is equally true that we can all understand the underlying reason for technicalities; and approve or disapprove.

Our proposal, therefore, is participatory democracy.

There have been decades of direct democracy experimentation, and under this name has become overwhelmingly manifold forms of citizen participation in politics, among which there is the participatory democracy I want to talk about.

They are, however, experimentation or local, or of small political dimensions; often only consultive: it seems as if the panem et circenses in democracy today is to let us play with these experiments; so much so they know how to do it.

Instead no, we no longer want to play, we want to participate.

By paraphrasing a feminist slogan, let’s resume our democracy!

In our view, participatory democracy flanks and completes the representative one: we have temporarily called CTS (Camera Temporanea a Sorteggio), Temporal Chamber by Draw.

It is accessed by draw, not by election; it is only once accessed in life; the duration of the CTS is a few days, a long weekend; can be drawn any citizen with a right to vote. And for every law approved by Parliament corresponds a specially created CTS: therefore, the second opinion on the laws would come no longer by another elective chamber, more or less photocopy of the first, but by a chamber by draw shaped on which now is defined wisdom of crowds.

I repeat: if they do everything to keep us away from politics, we will respond: let’s resume our democracy.

However, if they believe we can understand, so much to flatter and support the wisdom of crowds to win our vote, then let us participate, but really participate; and accept that every law to be definitively approved is subjected to the wisdom of crowds gathered in a CTS. Or have the courage to take away universal suffrage and to face the responsibility of that decision!

However, if we ask for participation on the one hand, on the other hand, we can not forget a fundamental problem linked to the wisdom of crowds: communication.

When I was a student and I started to do politics, for a strong voice, for example, served a strike successfully at FIAT Mirafiori, with all the discussion and organization of the previous days, then the picket, the procession, sometimes even the proletarian violence of the clashes in the square. Today, as Morozov teaches us, instead, it’s just a simple app on the phone: it happened in New York with Uber, for example. One click, almost inadvertently – and often with a cheat – for the single user but multiplied by the crowd of users, and a Public Administration is forced to surrender; and everything can be comfortably seated on your couch! Companies like Uber and Facebook, in fact, have the means to unleash a massive popular movement and bend any government in their interest.

I am certainly not here to plead neither censorship nor protectionism, be it clear.

But we must realize that the tripartite state powers and the consequent democratic weights and counterweights sanctioned by the Constitution are now incomplete. Here technology has made the situation more complex!

It is now time to rethink the three-partition and hypothesize the quadripartition, inserting the communication between the founding powers of the state and also creating weights and counterweights for her.

And for communication, I mean a vast array of tools, from fake to information, from TV series to apps, from social communities to big data, and so on.

I have no solutions to offer, and the topic is vast, especially because communication is also owned by private individuals and its regulation will put enormous, and here complex, ethical issues related to individual freedom.

And is not enough regulation or law; such a pervasive subject requires what everyone thinks to be the founding law of the state and in which everyone recognizes: the Constitution.

I therefore believe that a founding Assembly of a new Europe should put this argument at the center of the debate.

Andrea Surbone (IT),


His presentation for the workshop “For a new paradigm” on Sunday 02/07/2017 : 170702 Deliberative condorcism and participative democracy – proposals for a peoples’ Europe


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