Together with the Council, the House of Representatives could contribute to a better balance between national and global interests. Delegates sent by states to the present General Assembly, with the role of merely relaying messages from their national governments, represent people only indirectly – in many cases, very indirectly. The people’s sovereignty and national sovereignty overlap to various degrees (depending on the country) but never completely. For example, while he was the US president, Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and yet, according to a national poll (Marlon at al., 2017), 7 out of 10 Americans supported remaining in the agreement. If they had a chance to directly elect a number of representatives to a political body that deals with global issues, at least some of these representatives might have voted for a different outcome, reflecting better the wishes of the people. This is not to say that people would always and necessarily be more in tune with global issues than governments. Just as there are anti-EU members of the European Parliament, it is likely that there would be anti-global ones in the House of Representatives too. But, of course, there would also be those who would advocate greater cooperation and see the bigger picture. The dynamic between these could gauge the level of global integration and reduce the risks of moving too fast or too slowly. In any case, the House of Representatives would contribute to democratising the decision-making process and, as conventional wisdom would have it, this is likely to lead to better cooperation, coordination and efficacy.

The representatives in this House would be voted in directly (in a similar way to how members of the European Parliament are elected). About 700 representatives are suggested. This is a manageable number, not much greater than those of some national parliaments (the UK, for example, has 650 MPs). With the world’s population currently around 7.5 billion, and assuming a voting age of 18, there would be approximately 5 billion eligible voters worldwide, so each member would represent roughly 10 million people or just over 7 million electors. To organise a meaningful election with such a huge number would be a formidable, but not insurmountable task. Modern technology would be of great help. E-voting could be the preferred choice in some parts of the world. Estonia has already introduced e-voting and Switzerland, France, Australia and Panama are piloting online voting systems for expatriate citizens (Whitford, 2016). Many other are thinking about it. A smart card would allow for both secure remote authentication and legally binding digital signatures. The use of blockchain technology could further reduce the likelihood of fraud. In those regions or countries where this is not a viable option, international institutions, assisted by local volunteers and governments, could help to enable a more traditional means of voting[1].

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Clearly, many countries would have more than one representative. At first glance, this would seem to give a huge advantage to highly populated countries. However, we need to consider the fact that constituencies in a large country are unlikely to vote as a bloc, but rather form transnational ‘smart coalitions’. Almost every country in the EU, for example, is represented by a number of parties in the European Parliament. When voting, these parties show greater allegiance to political rather than to national affiliations – and this applies even to nationalistic, populist, anti-European ones. In India, different parties rule in different regions, so the representatives from that country would probably vote in different ways too. Of course, there is no guarantee that nationalistic allegiances and sentiments will not prevail on the global level, but there are some reasons for optimism: as already suggested, global governance would not be about interfering with national sovereignty so there should not be a huge incentive to unite under a national flag; parties and movements that may not have a great influence on their domestic political scenes may see this as a chance for their distinct voice to be heard – in a way, it would be political suicide to just go along with a party that already dominates at home; also, different parties or political movements will compete for a seat within each region on different platforms, and they would betray their electorate if they did not stick to it after winning the seat. Furthermore, certain measures to discourage national governments to force voting as a bloc could be introduced. For example, the value of a country’s overall vote could be reduced if all its representatives consistently vote in a bloc and contrary to their own pledges or manifestos.

What about countries that have fewer than 10 million people? It would not seem fair for, say, San Marino, with a few thousand people, to have the same number of representatives as, for example, Bulgaria with its population of 10 million. There are a number of possibilities here: the creation of administrative regions that would sometimes include more than one country, or encouraging people from small countries to form a constituency with others that may or may not be geographically close. Constituencies might also be formed across borders. For example, a French-speaking part of Belgium may choose to join people from a region of France, and Dutch-speaking ones with those in the Netherlands[2]. There are other options too, such as introducing a form of ‘digressive proportionality’ (as in the EU), minimum population (e.g. one million) that would guarantee one representative, and/or a cap on the maximum number of representatives from one country. All these possibilities have advantages and disadvantages, but we do not need to be concerned about them right now. The most important thing is to show that there are viable options and gain general support for the idea of the ‘people’s parliament’. When it comes to that, the best model will have to be forged through negotiations of those involved.

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It is possible that some countries may not permit their citizens to participate in this voting. In such a case, they would simply be excluded from the House of Representatives (but not from the House of States – see below). It is not envisaged, though, that this would be a frequent occurrence. Even countries that don’t operate on the basis of democratic principles may not want to resist this system, as it would let their population channel their democratic appetites at a global level, rather than internally. In fact, even China has already tried to experiment with democracy in local elections – evidence that, though cautious, it is not completely hostile to such possibilities as long as the rule of the Communist Party is not directly challenged.

For the electoral system, we again suggest the single transferable vote (STV), for several reasons. It would allow far greater flexibility than, for example, the first-past-the-post method, which requires constituents to be rigidly defined by their geographical regions. Furthermore, while all other proportional representation voting systems presume that parties reflect voters’ wishes and so give power to parties, political parties are not even necessary in STV, which would better suit countries like China. But again, there is no need to be rigid about this. There may be a good reason, in some cases, to use a different method (e.g. an electorate familiar with one system finding it hard to switch to another). After all, various systems are already used to elect members of the European parliament, without much discernible harm.

As already mentioned, the main role of the House of Representatives would be to forge and propose more specific goals and plans of action in line with the agreed general recommendations and guidelines. It would also debate proposals from the House of States, as well as from the general public (see below).

[1] They may be more open to fraud, but at the beginning, the benefits of rigging the votes and consequently the motivation to do so are likely to be low. With an increase of the importance of this House, the means of countering such activities are also expected to increase.
[2] A fear that this could be a serious threat to national sovereignty or unity is unfounded, as this House will be dealing with global, rather than national or local issues, and even if such issues are raised, these alliances would not have an overwhelming influence considering the total number of representatives.

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