Which decision-making authority for citizens' assemblies

Cristina Lafont*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The increased interest in citizens' assemblies has generated a heated debate about precisely which decision-making authorities they should be able to exercise. A key question in this debate is whether it is democratically legitimate to confer decision-making authority upon citizens' assemblies. To help answer this question, I distinguish between two ways in which citizens' assemblies can be institutionalized: a vertical or "top-down" approach versus a horizontal or "bottom-up" approach. Whereas the first approach seeks to empower citizens' assemblies to do the deliberating and deciding for the rest of the citizenry the second approach seeks to institutionalize citizens' assemblies with the aim of empowering the entire citizenry to influence policymaking, set the political agenda, and have the final say on certain political decisions. After analysing various proposals, I conclude that conferring decision-making authority upon citizens assemblies can be democratically legitimate only insofar as it empowers the entire citizenry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDe Gruyter Handbook of Citizens' Assemblies
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9783110758269
ISBN (Print)9783110758153
StatePublished - May 31 2023


  • Citizen empowerment
  • Citizens' assemblies
  • Decision-making authority
  • Deliberation
  • Legitimacy
  • Participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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