Intercameral Relations in a Bicameral Elected and Sortition Legislature

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

Research output: Contribution in Book/Catalog/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


John Gastil and Erik Olin Wright propose a hybrid bicameralism, with one chamber composed of elected politicians and the other of ordinary citizens chosen by sortition. Though they envision interactions between the two chambers as a “creative tension,” the question of intercameral relations deserves more careful attention. We argue that the chambers would not only have different virtues but also different legitimacies, which might become particularly conflictual if each chamber has the power to veto the proposals of the other, as Gastil and Wright recommend. To understand how those intercameral relations might develop, we investigated public and political support for sortition in Belgium, with a survey among a representative sample of the population and Members of Parliament. In the first section, we explain why Belgium is the right site for investigating these issues, and then present the results of our survey. In the second section, we explore the complementary virtues and competing legitimacies of elections and sortition in theoretical terms. We then draw on our data regarding legitimacy perceptions—and on more general observations about bicameral interactions in contemporary democracies—to consider in the third section different potential distributions of power between the two chambers and their potential political consequences. We review four institutional scenarios: (1) an elected and a sortition chamber having identical powers; (2) the elected one being subordinated; (3) the sortition one being subordinated; and (4) a single mixed chamber, which combines elected and sortition representatives. We weigh the pros and cons of these four options in light of both our data and our theoretical considerations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLegislature by Lot. Transformative Designs for Deliberative Governance
EditorsJohn Gastil, Erik Olin Wright
Place of PublicationLondon & New York
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameThe Real Utopias Project
PublisherErik Olin Wright


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