10th EL Congress – Lotteries, democracy and the European political landscape

The Congress took place against the backdrop of the European elections, and as a result, lotteries, chance and democracy were an important topic for discussion.

Brett Henning 

Brett Henning, Co-founder and Director at Sortition Foundation analysed the results of the elections, looking closely at the rise in European populism. In the past months and years, anti-EU populist parties have made an insurgence in Europe – a growing concern for the elections. Although these parties made gains, pro-European parties also did well. The results saw a shift away from the major political parties in the European Parliament, fundamentally changing the status quo at European level.

Interestingly, Henning looks at the current (European) political landscape from a view of sortition in government, whereby random people are put in a position of political power combined with deliberation. Sortition is in fact lotteries – the action of selecting or determining something by the casting or drawing of lots. Henning states that throughout history, lotteries were often used instead of elections, as it was believed they served a democracy better. The role of chance, luck and randomness play an important role in democratic decision-making processes still today.

Henning explained how and where lotteries (or sortition) have been used in politics to engage everyday people, for example in the use of citizen’s assemblies – the process of randomly selecting a handful of people to make decisions in an informed, fair and deliberative way. Deliberation is getting people to confront opinions that are not like their own and not only asking them what they think but also why they think it. Across Europe, sortition in government and citizen’s assemblies are on the rise, and Henning believes that such forums might be used to diffuse the nationalist shift in politics by integrating the language of populism into new forms of democracy at local, national and EU level.

The new European Parliament will no doubt shape the future political landscape. Lotteries should continue to seek to address the upcoming opportunities and challenges of the shifting context we are facing. Chance is part of lotteries and lotteries are part of democracy.

Photos: © Martimax photography

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