The Malaise of Electoral Democracy and What to Do About It

Re-Bel e-book 14, Published in English in April 2014, 68 pages

Prologue and epilogue by David Van Reybrouck
Lead Pieces by Didier Caluwaerts & Min Reuchamps, and Kristof Jacobs
Commentary by Philippe Van Parijs


Throughout the world, the idea of “democracy”, the idea that the people should be governed by the people, remains a popular idea, enthusiastically embraced in many places by the opponents of autocratic regimes and safely protected in other places by the norms of political correctness. Nonetheless, the actual functioning of democratic regimes, based as it is in our country and elsewhere on the electoral process, seems to experience, if not a crisis, at least a deep malaise. And this malaise prompts a questioning of its foundations and a search for alternatives.

Two such alternatives are provided by deliberative assemblies of randomly chosen citizens on the pattern of the G1000 experiment that took place in Brussels in 2011 and by the European Citizens’ Initiatives launched in 2012. The 7th Re-Bel event organized on 24 May 2012 took these two interesting new experiments as the starting point of a reflection on the malaise of democracy and what to do about it.

The present e-book includes a much enriched version of the two main presentations made on that occasion, respectively by Didier Caluwaerts (VUB) and Min Reuchamps (UCL) and by Kristof Jacobs (University of Nijmegen). These two pieces are preceded by a set of aphorisms on democracy by the historian and writer David Van Reybrouck, the mastermind of the G1000 and author of Tegen verkiezingen (De Bezige Bij, 2013, translated as Contre les élections, Actes Sud, 2014). They are followed by a commentary by Philippe Van Parijs, which benefited greatly from the discussion at the Re-Bel event and in particular from the contributions by Henri Monceau (Notre Europe), Charlotte Rive (European Commission), Jean-Pierre Rondas (ex VRT) and Daniel Van Lerberghe (Euractiv). And this commentary is in turn followed by an epilogue in the form of a letter in which David Van Reybrouck responds to Philippe Van Parijs’s commentary.