Selecting members of a Citizens’ Chamber

This is an extract from Tony Czarnecki’s book: ‘Democracy for a Human Federation’

The crisis of democracy at all levels of government worldwide, requires that citizens are much more closely involved in making political decisions. One might say, that this could be resolved by moving straight away from a representative democracy to a direct democracy, such as in Switzerland. However, notwithstanding other reasons where it may not be a better option, it may be quite difficult in practice to apply it in larger countries. Therefore, a better alternative seems to be a Citizens’ Chamber, as an Upper House of the Parliament and that is what I would propose for the EF. For a detailed description see Part 2, Chapter 4, where you will also find my justification for not proposing Citizens’ Assemblies to play that role.

Elections to the Citizens’ Chamber (the Senate), will be conducted using a random selection method and their members will be called Senators. The version of the proposal that I have prepared refers to national or regional parliaments throughout the EF, although it could also be used for even for a local Councils, including outside the EF, if so desired. However, to apply it for the EF State’s Parliament, the only change needed would be to adjust the size of electoral districts in the European Federation, which may include about 2 million voters (although smaller countries, such as Malta, would still get a minimum 1 seat). This is how I propose to carry out the allocation of mandates to the Citizens’ Chamber:

  1. A Citizens’ Chamber, also called the Senate, is a legislative body, which has the power to scrutinize the legislation passed by the MPs in the Lower House of a Parliament. Any such legislation could be amended twice by a simple majority. After the Parliament’s amendments to the third version, it could only be rejected by a 2/3 majority of the Citizens’ Chamber, in which case, such an act must be withdrawn from the statute.
  2. A Citizens’ Chamber is only able to propose a new law, if it receives a Citizens’ Petition, which needs the support of a minimum 5% of the voters on the electoral register. Such a petition, is then passed on to the Parliament if it is supported by a simple majority of the Citizens’ Chamber members
  3. The Citizens’ Chamber does not include any MPs, to preserve the integrity of the way in which the Chamber operates
  4. To select members of the Citizens’ Chamber, a country must be divided into electoral districts, similar to parliamentary districts
  5. Each district has 1 seat in the Senate
  6. A year before the very first parliamentary election, there will be a number of citizens randomly selected from the electoral register to become the candidates for a Senator in the Citizens’ Chamber
  7. The whole process of random selection is carried out and supervised by an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)
  8. The candidates may have to meet certain criteria, such as age, e.g. the same as for the elections to a parliament, or a minimum level of education. There could also be more complex criteria for selecting candidates, but perhaps more beneficial for the society. This might include selecting randomly, say 30% of the candidates with no initial pre-screening for education, another 40% with a minimum secondary education, the next 20% might include university graduates, and the final 10% might consist of technology specialists, scientists, lawyers, voluntary sector etc.
  9. The selected candidates have the right to decline the offer to join the Citizens’ Chamber team. That’s a departure from the Anglo- Saxon Jury service, where a person called randomly to serve on the Jury must perform his duty, since this is a legal requirement
  10. Once the candidates pass the selection criteria and agrees to serve as a member of the Chamber, he/she joins a stand-by pool of the candidates for becoming a Senator in the Citizens’ Chamber. For each seat in the Chamber there may be 3 candidates (the practice will show if this is the right number)
  11. Before becoming a Senator, the candidates in the stand-by pool will have to undergo training and coaching over a certain period, on how the government works and what are the rights and obligations of the member of the Chamber
  12. Only one of them will be randomly selected to serve as a Senator in the Citizens’ Chamber. Once he is selected, a new candidate will be randomly selected from the electoral register to replace him in the stand-by pool, so there will always be 3 candidates in the pool. The candidates in the stand-by pool will normally stay for several years, until they have been selected a Senator. However, they are be able to resign at any time, by giving an agreed notice to leave
  13. Unlike the MPs of the Lower House, who are all elected every four or five years, the Senate will not re-select its Senators at the same time. Instead, Senators are elected every two or three years, so that their term will overlap the sessions of the Parliament
  14. Overlapping the term of the Parliament by the Senate is important for two reasons. First of all, it minimizes the risk of corrupting Senators (they will serve only a two or a three-year term). Secondly, it makes passing legislation even more in line with the expectations of citizens, rather than in the interest of a political class, because of the continuous stream of new Senators (perhaps a dozen every month, since Senators may resign earlier for any reason)
  15. If a Senator leaves the Chamber during the parliamentary term, he will be substituted by a randomly selected candidate from the stand-by pool
  16. They candidates in the stand-by pool will be regularly informed on the current proceedings of the Chamber and may attend the sessions as non-voting representatives. They will be remunerated for being a candidate in the stand-by pool
  17. Senators have their job legally protected, should this be necessary. They have a legal duty to provide all the information on their education and skills they have. They also have to sign the Official Secrets Act and other necessary documents, swear under oath that they agree to represent their constituents honestly, without prejudice and maintain the secrecy of the debates, if required, under the same penalties as for government officials
  18. Senators are paid the same salary as MPs plus any expenses
  19. Senators are supported by a dedicated officer from the Chamber’s Support Office, in all matters related to performing their duties
  20. A Senator cannot be recalled for any reason unless he disobeys the rules of the service. Since he is accountable to nobody, because he has been selected and not elected, the only way of removing him will be by the members themselves, following the adopted procedures of a member’s recall.