Citizen Assemblies in the Inquiry Stage

One way of Strengthening Democracy in Sweden

Sweden is renowned for its collaborative and inclusive policy-making process. The inquiry stage, known as "remiss," plays a pivotal role in ensuring that various stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. However, here is a proposal to further strengthen Swedish democracy by involving citizen assemblies in the remiss process. By allowing ordinary citizens to deliberate on each law during the inquiry stage, Sweden can promote a more participatory democracy and better address the needs and concerns of its people.

Citizen assemblies are groups of randomly selected individuals who represent the broader population. They come together to discuss, deliberate, and make recommendations on specific policy issues. By involving citizen assemblies in the remiss process, Sweden can tap into the collective wisdom of its people and ensure that diverse perspectives and experiences are taken into account when crafting legislation.

There are several benefits to integrating citizen assemblies into the remiss process:

  • Enhanced democratic legitimacy: By involving ordinary citizens in the decision-making process, the government demonstrates its commitment to democracy and its appreciation for the public's opinions.
  • Improved policy outcomes: Deliberative processes can lead to better decision-making by ensuring that a wide range of perspectives are considered, resulting in more informed and balanced policy choices.
  • Reduced polarization: Deliberative processes encourage citizens to engage in constructive dialogues, fostering understanding and bridging gaps between people with differing views.
  • Increased civic engagement: Participation in a citizen assembly can instill a sense of responsibility in citizens, making them more inclined to partake in other forms of civic activities.

It is important to recognize that incorporating deliberative processes in Sweden would not replace the traditional representative democracy but rather complement it. By allowing citizen assemblies to participate in the remiss process, Sweden can strengthen its democratic foundation and foster a more inclusive, informed, and engaged society.

The proposal to involve citizen assemblies in the inquiry stage is an innovative and promising approach to enhance the Swedish democratic process. By engaging a diverse range of citizens in policy-making, Sweden can ensure that different perspectives and expertise are taken into account, leading to more thoughtful and well-founded decisions that resonate with the needs and concerns of its people.

About the Swedish legislative process

For non-Swedes unfamiliar with the Swedish legislative process, it is important to understand the key steps involved in creating new laws or modifying existing ones. The process is designed to promote collaboration and inclusivity, ensuring that various stakeholders have a say in shaping the country's legislation.

  • State inquiry: When the Swedish government wishes to introduce a new law or amend an existing one, it first commissions a state inquiry. A committee or special investigator is appointed to examine the issue and provide recommendations based on their findings.
  • Inquiry report: Once the investigation is complete, a report (betänkande) containing the recommendations is submitted to the government.
  • Inquiry stage (Remiss): The government then sends the report to various stakeholders, including public agencies, private organizations, municipalities, interest groups, and sometimes individual citizens, for consultation. This stage is known as the "remiss" process, and it aims to gather feedback and opinions from diverse perspectives.
  • Government proposal: After considering the feedback from the remiss process, the government refines the proposal and, in many cases, submits it to the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) for review. This independent body evaluates the proposal's legal compatibility..
  • Parliamentary bill (Proposition): Once approved by the Council on Legislation, the government presents the refined proposal as a bill (proposition) to the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) for further deliberation and voting.
  • Committee review: The Riksdag's relevant committees assess the bill and provide their opinions (utskottsbetänkande) before the final vote.
  • Parliamentary vote: The Riksdag votes on the bill, and if a majority approves, the new legislation is enacted and published in the Swedish Code of Statutes (Svensk författningssamling, SFS).

By involving various stakeholders in the legislative process, Sweden ensures a collaborative and inclusive decision-making environment, leading to more informed and balanced policies. The proposal to include citizen assemblies in the inquiry stage aims to further strengthen this democratic foundation.

Micke Ströberg May 2, 2023
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