Greens advocate citizens' assemblies

At their virtual party conference on 21/22 November 2020, Green Party delegates decided to include the demand for randomly selected citizens' assemblies in their manifesto. It now states:

"Direct participation opportunities enrich representative democracy. Citizens' assemblies should make it possible to incorporate the everyday expertise of citizens more directly into legislation on selected issues. Randomly selected citizens discuss a specific issue over a fixed period of time and develop recommendations for action and impulses for public debate and parliamentary decision-making.

It is important to ensure that the participants are able to form their opinions freely, equally and fairly and that they are given sufficient space for intensive discussion of the issue. Citizens' assemblies have a purely consultative function for public debate and legislation. The government and parliament have to deal with the results, but do not have to follow them. Citizens' assemblies can be set up on the initiative of the government, the parliament or as a citizens' petition on a specific issue. This should also be possible at the federal level."

Answer to representation problems

In an interview with the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe, party leader Robert Habeck had previously explained the move. "One problem is that many are not heard enough - in parliament, for example, there are hardly any MPs with intermediate school leaving certificates or basically no one with a first school leaving certificate. But to respond to this, there is a better model, the citizens' assemblies," he said.

The Greens' basic programme no longer includes the demand for the introduction of referendums on the federal level. The party congress followed by a narrow majority the proposal of the federal executive of the Greens to no longer maintain this demand. "Referendums will polarise," Habeck warned at the party conference. "They will not promote discourse in society, but the division of society." Referring to the harassment of members of the Bundestag by guests of the AfD, Green Party member of parliament Jürgen Trittin said it was more important than ever to strengthen parliamentary democracy.

Combination of referendums and citizens' assemblies recommended

The introduction of nationwide referendums in combination with citizens' assemblies was one of 22 recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on Democracy. In September 2019, 155 out of 160 randomly selected participants of the Citizens' Assembly from all over Germany, had voted in favour of supplementing parliamentary representative democracy with a combination of citizen participation and direct democracy. 152 votes were cast in favour of the legal anchoring of a national citizens' assembly.

After the FDP, the Greens are the second party to include the demand for citizens' councils in their manifesto.