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Deliberative polling

History News Network


 


Is there a way to include an informed and representative public voice in the nomination process? A solution can be found in the practices of ancient Athens, where hundreds of citizens chosen by lot would regularly deliberate together and make important public decisions.


In ancient Athens, there were citizens' juries and legislative commissions of several hundreds, as well as the Council of 500 that set the agenda for the Agora, the public forum - all chosen by lot. Lottery provided for an equal chance to participate, while deliberation ensured an informed outcome.


Recently, Pasok, the socialist party of Greece, revived this ancient practice after 2,400 years and applied it to the selection of candidates in the municipal elections.


In the Athenian district of Marousi, site of the Athens Olympics, a randomly selected group of 160 citizens gathered to choose from among six candidates. All members of the group were sent briefing materials on 19 issues ranging from traffic and waste disposal to private universities and social services. After 10 hours of deliberation and direct questioning of the candidates, the participants voted by secret ballot; in the second round, Panos Alexandris won a clear majority and was therefore nominated as the Pasok candidate for mayor of Marousi.


 
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