Some thoughts about referendums, representative democracy, and separation of powers

Original Paper


Referendums have experienced some sort of a comeback. Citizen involvement in political decisions is seen increasingly as a healthy add-on in democratic polities. While earlier writers on democratic theory often saw a danger in increased participation of citizens, more recently several authors suggest that this participation should be fostered. I argue in this paper that both sides in the debate neglect important aspects of referendums. Discussing whether direct participation by the citizens is a good or bad thing addresses only half the story. More precisely, we have to get a better idea about how referendums interact with the traditional institutions of representative democracy.


Referendums Political institutions Policy effects of referendums 

JEL Classification

 D02 H11 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de Science Politique, Faculté des Sciences Économiques et SocialesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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