Strong increase in local and regional citizens' assemblies

Submitted by webmaster on Thu, 27-07-2023 - 18:44

The work of those advocating for citizens' assemblies is beginning to pay off: many municipalities, including some bigger cities, and some regions, have started organizing them, or have plans to do so. A think tank supported by the VNG (Association of Dutch Municipalities) expects their importance will increase in the years to come.

Now that citizens' assemblies are becoming mainstream, resistance to them is also growing. Annemarie Kok, Journalist, researcher and author, complained that they lead to a 'chaotic democracy', and even obstruct improvement of public administration. Also Margriet Donker-van der Vinne, member of the Groningen provincial council for the centrist evangelical Christian Union party, voiced her dissatisfaction stating in several articles that citizens' assemblies 'hollow out democracy'. Researcher and independent journalist Chris Aalberts criticized citizens' assemblies for attracting only the 'participation elite' — a special class of citizens with an interest in politics, unrepresentative of the population as a whole. On social media, citizens' assemblies are framed as 'tool of the elite', undemocratic, or sometimes even as communist. Many dissatisfied citizens argue for referendums as the 'real democratic alternative', apparently unaware that even in Switzerland experiments with sortition have been initiated, and referendums have unacceptable undemocratic flaws.