Here we are, wondering if we’d have more luck throwing together an ancient Greek election tombola instead of the modern election carambole.

Voja Zanetic

If you allow me, I will be the first columnist on this website, and I suppose in general, who used the services of the GPT-4 platform to create a part of the column. I mean, it is the modern thing… Well, I asked artificial intelligence what Kleroterion is, reckoning that it would be a very good way to start this very text. And here’s what it said:

“Kleroterion (Greek: κληρωτήριον) was a system of electing officials in ancient Greece, especially in Athens. It was used to elect citizens who would perform public functions, such as judges, members of the assembly or soldiers.

The kleroterion consisted of a board with drawn-on columns, into which you would insert bronze plates inscribed with the names of citizens who were up for election to public offices. The system worked by randomly drawing one tile for each function. Citizens whose names would be drawn on the plaques would become public servants for a certain period of time.”

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Thanks, robot. Now, for my part.

As we see, the ancient Greeks were skeptical of elections as a way to choose members of the public office. They opposed electoral corruption and the seductiveness of oratory with – the lottery. At the time, a fortunate election was declared to be the most fortunate way of democratic election to public office. A state position should be given – as was considered a couple of centuries before the birth of Christ – not to those who really want it, but to those who were lucky (or unlucky) enough to be elected with the help of the political Lotto. In the case of politics, let chance decide, said those who invented democracy. And it seems like they were right.

Twenty and many centuries later, here we are, wondering if we’d have more luck throwing together an ancient Greek election tombola instead of the modern election carambole.

It would be especially nice for us, in this vicinity, as we have three decades of experience in witnessing the democratic electoral system being absolutely no guarantee of safe establishment of control of the popular will over politicians. Inter-ethnic conflicts, increased class inequality, a sale of state (meaning – people’s) property, unnatural enrichment of the political caste and those close to them. If nothing, all of this would at least be easier if it were the result of an accident caused by a bad lottery draw, and not a bad finishing of voting enthusiasm. Too much enthusiasm indeed, especially for the results that had been achieved.

Some sort of Kleroterion, therefore, could be to blame for the less than fortunate transition from the fantasy of democracy from the era of socialism to the harsh realities of competing political entrepreneurs from this specific era of capitalism. We could conclude that we had been unlucky, because we had an unlucky draw. Now it just seems that we are unlucky, and that is true, but we can’t blame the lottery, because we don’t only not have the luck, but we don’t have the lottery either.

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The state of democracy in the vicinity, and more generally, is now unfortunate, to say the least. In fact, the statement that we had been unlucky can also undergo its own evaluative analysis: we were unlucky with the breakup of Yugoslavia; we were unlucky with the rise in crime and its impact on politics; we have had no luck with understanding what democracy must entail in order to exist; we had no luck with domestic and foreign businesses that influenced politics; we were unlucky with the amount of capital that had to change hands; we were unlucky with the geographical position in relation to the ideological West and East; we were unlucky with the industrial and media revolution in the midst of which we are democratizing; we were not lucky even with the economic and political crises in countries that should be democratic role models – who have also been unlucky lately…

Where does our democracy, then, go from here? We can only hope that the future will bring a little more fortune, or we can think about whether it’d be needed to activate the good old Kleroterion after all… Maybe try to get to this electoral luck in the luckiest possible way. Likely to be the only one.

Best of luck to us.