Citizens' assemblies in Saarland and Thuringia
Saarland and Thuringia are to get sortition-based citizens' assemblies as new instruments of citizen participation. While in Saarland Landtag President Stephan Toscani (CDU) advocates "representative citizens' forums", in Thuringia a citizens' assembly to review citizen participation is in the coalition agreement of the Left, SPD and Greens.
"Citizens' forums counteract the polarisation and division of society, so they have a pacifying effect," says Stephan Toscani, president of the Saarland state parliament. In addition, the influence of lobby groups is reduced. According to the CDU, "decisions of fundamental importance to state policy" are suitable for a citizens' assembly. The SPD wants a parliamentary hearing on the further development of citizen participation, in which citizens' councils assemblies also play a role.
The idea of a citizens' assembly was suggested to the president of the state parliament by Markus Breit from Ensheim. In September 2019, the caretaker was one of the 160 randomly selected members of the Citizens' Assembly on Democracy. Over four days, the assembly formulated 22 recommendations for the further development of democracy in Germany. The President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, accepted these recommendations on behalf of the Bundestag on 15 November 2019. On 21 January 2020, Breit handed over a copy of the citizens' report to the President of the Landtag, Toscani, and explained the idea of the Citizens' Assembly.
Citizens' assembly for citizen participation
In Thuringia, the Left, SPD and Greens believe that the existing instruments of citizen participation need to be reviewed. Some of the previous instruments did not achieve the intended goals of effective participation and direct democracy. Therefore, citizens should be directly involved in the review via citizens' assembly.
Citizens' assemblies already exist as permanent institutions in Ireland, in the German-speaking Community in East Belgium and in the Austrian province of Vorarlberg. In France and Northern Ireland, too, there are to be regular citizens' assemblies of this kind in the future.