No-nonsense North Otago farmer Jane Smith is the last person you’d expect to get swept up in a TikTok trend but she may have inadvertently created an alternative version of “How often do you think about the Roman Empire?”
In Smith’s case, the question is “How often do you think about ancient Greece?”
The sheep farmer told The Country’s Jamie Mackay that she’s so tired of Kiwi politicians and election campaigning that she had gone back in time, in an attempt to find a more palatable way of choosing leaders.
Admitting that this was all strictly tongue-in-cheek and “off the top of my head” Smith listed her favoured election processes from Ancient Greece.
Sortition - lottery system
Sortition is when officials were in large part chosen by lottery.
“So, a wee bit like jury duty,” Smith said.
According to Smith’s high school history teachers, this resulted in a “better cross-section of society” and less “narcissistic behaviour,” she said.
“They weren’t power hungry and they were just chosen to do a good job - they also had to do their day jobs.”
Ostracism – negative elections
This was an Athenian democratic procedure in which any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for 10 years.
“So, basically each year the voters - and it was every year - were asked to vote for the political leader or candidates that they most wanted to be exiled,” Smith said.
Voters wrote their choice on a piece of pottery, or ostraka, which is where the process got its name from.
“Basically you were ostracising them,” Smith said.
“Whoever received the most votes was indeed that - exiled from any powerful position for the next decade.”
This is Sparta! Shouting elections
In ancient Sparta, politicians often came to power through a rather noisy process called shouting elections, Smith said.
“Each candidate would come into the room and the noise of shouting would dictate whether they got in or not - the more shouting, the more likely they were to get elected.”
Unfortunately, this method was “very open to bribery,” she said.
“There’d be a lot of buying drinks for the voters beforehand to make them a bit rowdier to make them shout.”
- Additional reporting from the top of Jane Smith’s head with verification from Wikipedia.