Hacking the Representative System? The Emergence and Organization of Agora as a Deliberative (Anti-)party in Brussels

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paper


In recent years we have witnessed the rise of political parties that apply deliberative practices in their organization and activities (Gherghina, Soare & Jacquet, 2020). Examples include the Danish Alternativet, M5S in Italy and the Pirate Party in several European countries. A new member to be added to this list is Agora in Belgium. The party competed for the first time in the 2019 regional elections in Brussels, won 5.18% of the votes, and gained its first seat in the Brussels Parliament. The aim of the party is to institutionalize a citizen’s assembly with legislative power in the Brussels Capital Region and to innovate democracy through sortition. By competing in elections and adopting the features of a single-issue party, Agora presents itself as a new challenger party within the representative democratic system. However, the party also adopts an explicit anti-party and anti-(representative) system narrative: it rejects the ‘party’ label and it firmly criticizes (the shortcomings of) representative democratic institutions. Competing in elections is in this sense a means to an end, and is seen as an effort to ‘hack’ the representative system from within. Taking this tension as a starting point, this paper examines how deliberative practices are implemented in Agora’s organizational structure and how the party deals with the potentially conflicting logics and expectations of representative and deliberative democracy. In addition, we also study whether and how Agora officials and activists perceive this tension and how it shapes the challenges faced by this new (deliberative) party in (elected) office for the first time. These questions are answered through a qualitative case study of Agora in the first year of its existence. We draw upon original empirical data collected by the authors, including interviews with party officials and activists, and document analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPaper presented at the 2020 ECPR virtual General Conference
PublisherEuropean Consortium for Political Science
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventECPR Virtual General Conference - Online
Duration: 24 Aug 202028 Aug 2020


ConferenceECPR Virtual General Conference

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