Global Affairs

Will politics be better with citizens' assemblies?

Athenian-style democracy, with help from Twitter and Facebook, will enhance grassroots engagement - but it remains a double-edged sword

LONDON • As a first step, it was mildly successful. Responding to repeated waves of violent protests from citizens angered by everything from rising fuel prices to social and economic exclusion, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his ministers and officials to launch a "grand debate" with his country's population.

And the public did respond. The President himself spent an entire day on his feet, pacing up and down, answering questions from hundreds of mayors and local government officers about every topic they cared to raise. And over the past two weeks alone, more than 500 further public meetings were either held or scheduled throughout France with the aim of "building a consensus, a new contract for the nation", as Mr Macron put it.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline 'Will politics be better with citizens' assemblies?'. Print Edition | Subscribe