Complementary Virtues and Competing Legitimacies: Inter-Chamber Relationships in a Bicameral Elected and Sortitioned Legislature

Pierre-Etienne Vandamme, Vincent Jacquet, Christoph Niessen, John Pitseys, Min Reuchamps

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In their chapter on a “Legislature by lot”, Gastil and Wright propose to launch a bicameral parliament where one chamber would be composed by elected politicians and the other by sortitioned ordinary citizens. Their idea is to combine party-independent problem-solving deliberations in a chamber for which every citizen has the same chance to get selected, with adversial debates on conflicting policy preferences in a chamber for which every citizen was entitled to cast a vote. Given that election and sortition have distinct virtues, this looks like a promising proposal to reintroduce sortition in the selection of political representatives. If the authors envision the interaction between both chambers as a “creative tension”, their relationship has received less attention than it would deserve. The assemblies have not only different virtues but also different legitimacies which can become particularly conflictual if each chamber has the power to veto the proposals of the other, as Gastil and Wright recommend. If, as can be expected, the elected chamber is less popular than the sortitioned one, the legitimacy of the election mechanism might be more and more questioned. In turn, elected representatives might try to bring discredit upon the allotted representatives. The conflict would thereby not only occur during the political process but also in public opinion. We propose to address the tension between elected and sortitioned chambers both theoretically and empirically. After having discussed the conflicting legitimacies from the point of view of political theory, we will analyze different concrete propositions that have been made in Belgium by politicians, academics and intellectuals to transform the Senate, the upper-house, in a sortitioned assembly. Their propositions have prompted various reactions that we will also consider to get a better understanding of how inter-chamber relationships in a bicameral elected and sortitioned legislature can and have been envisioned both in theory and practice – and what implications this has for Gastil and Wright’s proposal.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventConference on a ‘Legislature by Lot’ - Workshop : Sortition Legislature -
Duration: 15 Sept 201717 Sept 2017


ConferenceConference on a ‘Legislature by Lot’ - Workshop : Sortition Legislature


  • Belgium
  • Sortition


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