The Bremen government alliance of SPD, Greens and Left Party wants to expand the political participation of citizens in the Hanseatic city. For this purpose, randomly selected citizens' forums are to be established. The random selection of participants is intended to reach people who would otherwise not participate and make their voices heard politically. In a motion passed on 25 January 2022 with the votes of the governing alliance, the City Parliament calls on the City Senate to draw up a concept for the citizens' forums and, as a first step, to propose suitable questions for three forums.
The citizens' forums are a strong impulse to involve more citizens in political decision-making, according to Ralph Saxe, the Green Party MP responsible for citizens' participation: "With the citizens' forums, previously underrepresented groups can be better involved in political processes than with the usual formats. All participants are randomly selected to obtain a representative cross-section of the population. In this way, even population groups that are distant from politics can be reached and, in the best case, won over permanently for a living democracy."
The established participation formats would often be perceived by an "educated, white and male bourgeoisie". The people who are affected by many decisions, on the other hand, hardly take advantage of these opportunities. Their will is thus left out. "That is why we want to strengthen their influence with the forums and arouse greater interest in democratic participation. After all, democracy thrives on committed people," Saxe explained.
"Especially people who have no access to parties, associations or citizens' initiatives can be politically involved with the help of citizens' forums, explains the SPD parliamentary group on its website. Through random selection, people from different information bubbles would meet. Payments for loss of earnings, support for child care, care for relatives, translation and understandable language reduce social exclusion.
Overcoming social divides
"People from all parts of the population are capable of making qualified and representative decisions if they are provided with balanced information and comprehensibly prepared knowledge and if the process is professionally accompanied. Better than with other forms of participation, extreme positions can be balanced out and social divides overcome in citizens' forums," the SPD continues.
Citizens' forums could also be used for specific issues that only affect a - also more narrowly defined - group of people. "For example, a citizens' forum could only be staffed with people under 21 if it deals specifically with an issue that affects young people in particular, such as the question of how to design the city centre so that it becomes a lively place for young people to come together," the Social Democrats explain. In this way, they say, young people can also be won over to political participation processes at an early stage, and they will continue to be politically engaged after the citizens' forum is over.