Real Democracy Now! a podcast answers the question: can we do democracy differently? If you're dissatisfied with the current state of democracy but not sure how it could be improved this is the podcast for you. You'll hear from experts and activists as well as everyday people about how democracy works and how it can be improved. Then you get to choose which reforms you think would make the most difference.
The Paris Citizens' Assembly
In this bonus episode, I talk with Anouch Toranian, the Deputy Mayor of Paris, Yves Dejaeghere, the Executive Director of the Federation for Innovation in Democracy, Europe and Claudia Chwalisz, leader of innovation in citizen engagement with the OECD about the design and establishment of the Paris Citizens' Assembly.
The Paris Citizens' Assembly was established in 2021 with 100 Parisians representing the diversity of the city of Paris. The Assembly is charged with evaluating past programs or policies, setting up citizens' juries and determining the topic for Paris' annual participatory budgeting process.
The Assembly is unique in that the Council are sharing with the Assembly members responsibility for designing how it works.
3.8 New Zealand's Electoral System with Therese Arseneau
In episode eight of season three of the podcast, I'm speaking with Therese Arseneau about the introduction of a mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system.
Therese was an expert advisor to the New Zealand Electoral Commission between 2010 and 2016. She is currently an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Therese sets out
the background to the referendum which led to the introduction of MMP in New Zealand [1:20] how voters view the impact of MMP [13:30] the reality of MMP and coalition governments [21:20] the impact of MMP on women's representation [28:10] the wider impact of MMP [34:00] and Maori representation generally and the impact of MMP [39:30] The story of New Zealand's radical change to their electoral system and it's broad impacts is a fascinating one.
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The next podcast episode will be about electoral systems in South East Asia.
Electoral systems in Australia with Antony Green
In this episode, I’m talking with Antony Green about the Australian electoral system and Vote Compass, a tool which allows voters to explore how their views align with the major parties.
Antony is an Australian psephologist and commentator. He is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's election analyst. As well as being an Adjunct Professor University of Sydney in the School of Social and Political Sciences.
I spoke with Antony about how he came to be Australia’s best-known election analyst - he said he was in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills.
He identified three institutions which define Australian politics:
Compulsory voting Preferential voting Bi-cameral Houses of Parliament And highlighted a couple of institutional challenges in Australia
The power of our Senate undermines the mandate given to the House of Representatives to implement the policies they took to the election Strict rules around what counts as a validly completed ballot paper results in around one-third to a half of all votes being considered informal. I also asked Antony what he thought of the idea of a Citizens’ Senate. He noted that it would be difficult in practice due to the need to amend the Australian Constitution and that there would be many questions to be answered about how it might work in practice.
Anthony has been involved in the development of Vote Compass here in Australia and I asked him about the benefits and limitations of the tool.
My interview with Antony was recorded some time ago and we are currently in the midst of a Federal Election here in Australia. As Antony suggested in his comments on Vote Compass, it has been extended to include the ultra-conservative party One Nation. It will be interesting to see the impact of a party to the right of the Liberal/Nationals on where people’s policy preferences align.
If you would like to see how your policy preferences align with four of the political parties contesting the upcoming 2019 Federal Election visit the ABC’s Vote Compass.
Reforming democracy, democratic legitimacy and majority bonuses with Dr Camille Bedock
In this episode, I’m talking with Dr Camille Bedock about her book Reforming Democracy: Institutional engineering in Western Europe, 1990 - 2010 and also about her more recent research with Sophie Panel on citizen conceptions of how democratic their democracy is and with Nicolas Sauger on how electoral systems with majority bonuses affect electoral competition.
Camille's book is based on her thesis and looks at electoral and other reforms in Italy and France [1.35] with a focus on the determinants and processes of institutional reform.
For her research, Camille focused on formal institutions [3.50] which regulate the functioning of democracy. In particular, she looked at bundles of reforms [5.25] building on Lijphart’s work in Patterns of Democracy, finding that often institutional components 'move together.’ She proves examples of such bundles of reforms [8.05] such as changes to the length of the Presidential term and the electoral calendar term in France. Her research concludes that bundles of reforms are the norm rather than the exception.
Camille identifies three key findings of her research [10.15]
Institutional reforms are not exceptional or rare
Political elites make reforms in reaction to events rather than in a proactive way
To understand change and stability we need to look at the processes of reform which are either consensual or conflictual.
In considering democratic legitimacy and trust [13.45] Camille notes that whilst lack of legitimacy can lead to institutional reforms there is little evidence available about whether institutional reforms can restore legitimacy and trust. And she points out that legitimacy and trust may depend on an individual’s views on how democracy should operate. Her recent research with Sophie Panel [16.15] on the views of French people on how democratic their democracy is, suggests that people who hold minimalist views on democracy have a higher regard for their democracy as do people who voted for the party which won the last election.
Finally, Camille in conjunction with Nicolas Sauger [18.55] has looked at the impact of majority bonus systems on electoral competition and representative outcomes.
3.5 Electoral Integrity with Pippa Norris
In this episode, I am speaking with Professor Pippa Norris about her work on electoral integrity.
Pippa Norris, is the Paul F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Director of the Electoral Integrity Project.
Pippa has published almost fifty books. Most recently these books focus on electoral integrity. with Electoral Integrity (2017 Cambridge), Election Watchdogs (ed. 2017 Oxford), Why American Elections are Flawed (2017 Cornell), Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit and Authoritarian-Populism (2018 Cambridge, with Ronald Inglehart) and Electoral Integrity in America (ed. 2018 Oxford University Press).
Pippa talks about
key features of electoral integrity
factors which support or hinder electoral integrity
why the United States is at the bottom of the ‘scoreboard’ amongst Western democracies in regard to electoral integrity and
how different electoral systems impact on the representation of minorities and women.
Bonus Ep10 Deliberation Culture Context - John Dryzek
Welcome to Episode 10 in this special bonus series of Real Democracy Now! a podcast about Deliberation, Culture and Context.
This bonus series has been made in collaboration with the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. In this series, I’ve spoken with most of the presenters at the Centre's conference on Deliberation, Culture and Context, which was held in early December 2017. This conference brought together scholars from around the world to examine the different forms, meanings, and significance associated with deliberation in various cultures and contexts. A copy of the conference program is available here.
This Conference was supported by John's ARC Laureate Fellowship entitled "Deliberative Worlds: Democracy, Justice and a Changing Earth System."
In this episode, I’m speaking with Professor John Dryzek about his ARC Laureate Fellowship, his reflections on the Conference generally, how we might establish global deliberative processes and directions for future research in this area.
In reflecting on the conference John made a number of interesting points about deliberation, culture and context:
deliberation is a universal capacity - anyone anywhere can do it however, deliberation is manifested differently in different cultures and contexts context and culture should not be conflated culture involves processes of meaning-making to which deliberation can contribute there are ethical issues associated with critiquing other cultures. Despite the range of cultures and contexts in which deliberation occurs John believes that 'we can't simply wait' until we understand these different approaches before we develop global deliberative processes or we could be waiting forever.
John identifies two broad research agendas:
consider research questions from a non-western perspective undertake empirical research looking at how deliberative processes can feed into global governance. The next episode of the podcast will be back to Season 3 looking at Elections, Electoral Systems and Alternatives. In episode 5 of Season 3, I’ll be talking with Professor Pippa Norris about electoral integrity.
Loving this podcast!
I've been circling ideas about democracy for a while now and finding this podcast has been wonderful. Love to the topic flows and the interview style. Inviting, informative, and stimulating - thanks Nivek!
Informative and engaging
I am a co-founder of NewVote, a nonpartisan charity working to use technology to enhance democracy. I have found this podcast to be an invaluable resource for my exploration and research of the area. I love the focus on inspiring others to improve democracy. Nivek Thompson has managed to pull in world-class leaders in democracy and her questioning highlights the tensions and grey areas in democractic schools of thoughts incredibly well. This is one awesome podcast. Highly recommend for anyone interested in politics - particularly political science students! I think listening to a few of these episodes should be part of the compulsory course work at university!
Loving the different perspectives I'm hearing and the podcast is really well put together. Against the sense of loss and sadness of 2016, this is kicking 2017 off to feelings of hope and optimism. Can't help but feel I'm on the start of a journey here!