Parties in favour of citizens' assemblies

16. September 2021

All but one party represented in the German Bundestag are in favour of using randomly selected citizens' assemblies at the federal level. This is shown by a survey conducted by the initiative "Klima-Mitbestimmung.JETZT!" (Climate co-determination now). The far-right AfD did not answer.

CDU/CSU: Citizens' assemblies can complement parliamentary democracy

While the CDU and CSU have not taken a position on citizens' assemblies in their joint election manifesto, they now give positive answers to the questions of the climate activists. "We want to involve the people in Germany even more in the political process, so that politicians can get an additional picture of the mood. In doing so, citizens' assemblies can complement parliamentary democracy," it says.

"The combination of deliberative elements and representative democracy would enable citizens to participate even more often and to experience politics in dialogue. We definitely see this as an opportunity to strengthen the resilience of our democracy," the sister parties continue. However, it is important that parliaments continue to have the power to shape policy. The final decisions must be made in the parliaments, because only they are legitimised by the citizens.

The CDU and CSU are also open to a nationwide citizens' assembly on climate policy issues. "We would like to discuss a participation platform on climate policy analogous to the Citizens' Assembly on Democracy. A broader participation opportunity can help to shape climate policy goals," the two parties write. The final decision, however, must be made in parliament.

When asked about their position on the creation of a legal framework for convening citizens' assemblies, CDU and CSU replied: "We will examine to what extent it is possible and necessary in the future to enrich Germany's tried and tested model of representative democracy at the federal level with deliberative elements".

SPD: "Exploring new avenues of direct participation"

"We will take up the experiences with citizens' assemblies and make it our task to go new ways of direct participation in state decisions," the SPD announces. Through a systematic and early participation of citizens in state projects, legal channels could be shortened and procedures accelerated.

"The creation of a procedure for the participation of citizens' assembly is a mandate arising from our programme for the future," the Social Democrats continue. In particular, they said, the right of initiative must lie with civil society. Especially taking up the everyday perspective of citizens is an added value of citizens' assemblies, they said: "They know best what they want to do about their issue."

Greens: "Good place for a factual debate"

The Greens want to introduce citizens' assemblies to advise the Bundestag and the federal government with a participation law. "They are a good place for a factual debate on political issues, can get people excited about politics and make valuable recommendations to political decision-makers," the party writes. Various examples showed that citizens' assemblies often gave interesting suggestions to politicians. The federal government, the Bundestag and the population should be given the opportunity to set up citizens' assemblies on selected issues.

The recommendations of citizens' assemblies are to be examined in a standardised procedure. The Bundestag should then have to deal with them. "How, whether and why recommendations were included or not included, we want to handle transparently," the Greens say.

The party wants to set up an "Office for Participation" at the German Bundestag as a coordinating body for citizens' assemblies. The office "could act as a neutral body for the planning, implementation and evaluation of citizens' assemblies and other participation formats, as well as for measuring the impact of the resulting citizens' recommendations", the Greens suggest. Such an institution would then have to be appropriately funded to implement these requirements.

The Greens also advocate that citizen participation be anchored in the development of the Climate Protection Programme 2030. In the course of the amendment of the Climate Protection Act, there was no such participation. This is a missed opportunity.

FDP: "Representative democracy wins through new instruments of participation"

In the opinion of the FDP, representative democracy wins through new instruments of citizen participation outside of elections. "For us, the decisive addressee and client for more citizen participation are therefore the parliaments, for example through the possibility of citizen consultation by house parliaments, the extension of the right of petition by the 'citizens' plenary procedure' or through citizens' assemblies appointed by random selection," the Liberals write. It must always be made unmistakably clear that only parliament makes legitimate decisions, that the advisory mandate is clearly limited and that expectations are clearly defined.

The Left: "We are positively disposed towards the idea"

"We are open and positive to the idea of citizens' assemblies and see it as a complement to the tried and tested forms of representative democracy. They should go hand in hand with the strengthening of direct democratic procedures - citizens' or referendum petitions and decisions," answers the Left Party to a corresponding question from Klima-Mitbestimmung.JETZT!

As a first step, the party wants to introduce citizens' assemblies for transport planning. For planning approval and regional planning procedures, "mandatory citizens' forums" are to be prescribed. "Especially in transport planning, great contributions can be made to a more climate-friendly infrastructure policy, and at the same time very different interests have to be taken into account. Citizens' assemblies would be a suitable instrument to bring these interests into the political discussion and to seek common solutions," says the Left Party.

The introduction of a legal basis for citizens' assemblies would of course also include the creation of procedural standards. The convening of citizens' assemblies should also be possible on the initiative of civil society, especially with regard to other policy fields.

The Left Party is open to the idea of establishing an independent coordination office for citizen participation. "When expanding procedures for citizen participation, an independent evaluation of already existing participation formats and the development of new instruments makes sense. Whether this is done by funding existing civil society and scientific institutions or bundled in a separate institution still needs to be discussed," the party said. It also still needs to be debated how to prevent citizens' assemblies from becoming token events without consequences.

More information: Citizens' Assembly Election Survey by Klima-Mitbestimmung.JETZT!