There is a paradox in the practical use of referendums. In theory, a referendum is the closest one gets to pure democracy under a general system of representative democracy. In practice, however, in developing countries, ‘referendums have been utilized primarily by authoritarian regimes’ (Marques and Smith 1984: 103). Asia is a case in point. The largest continent on Earth is, arguably, the least democratic. According to a recent count, only six of the countries in the continent were regarded as fully fledged democracies — a ‘ratio worse than the worldwide average’ (Nathan 2012: 134). It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that India and Japan, two of the most long-standing democracies on that continent, have yet to hold a nationwide referendum; and that Israel, another country with a strong — though not unblemished (Arieli-Horowitz 1993) — democratic record, falls into the same category. Asia, which ‘hosts some of the world’s most resilient authoritarian regimes’ (Nathan, ibid.), has held very few referendums, and many of those that have taken place have been held during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, in Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini and in Syria under both Bashar and Hafez al-Assad. And, yet, this pattern is not uniform. North Korea, the most authoritarian regime in Asia, has not submitted any issues to plebiscites, whereas votes have been held in Taiwan and South Korea, two of the more democratic countries in that part of the world.
KeywordsAuthoritarian Regime Liberal Democratic Party Direct Democracy Veto Player Comparative Politics
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Almond, G.A., Dalton, R.J., Powell, G.B. and Strøm, K. (2006) Comparative Politics Today: A World View, New York: Pearson Longman.Google Scholar
- Arieli-Horowitz, D. (1993) The Labyrinth of Legitimacy: Referendum in Israel, Jerusalem: Israel Democracy Institute.Google Scholar
- Blaydes, L. (2006) ‘Who Votes in Authoritarian Elections and Why? Determinants of Voter Turnout in Contemporary Egypt.’ Paper Presented at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, 31 August–3 September 2006, Philadelphia, PA.Google Scholar
- Burghart, R. (1994) ‘The Political Culture of Panchayat Democracy.’ Nepal in the Nineties: Versions of the Past, Visions of the Future, 1–13.Google Scholar
- Conan Doyle, Arthur (1892) Silver Blaze, London: Strand Magazine.Google Scholar
- Dicey, A.V. (1981) An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund Inc.Google Scholar
- Friedrich, C.J. and Brzezinski, Z. (1956) Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Huang, D.W. (2006) ‘Did the 2004 “Peace Referendum” Contribute to the Consolidation of Taiwan’s Democracy?’ Taiwan Journal of Democracy, 2(2), 143–176.Google Scholar
- Kirkpatrick, D.D. (2012) ‘Morsi Admits Mistakes.’ The New York Times, 27 December 2012.Google Scholar
- Kobori, Masahiro (2009) ‘Referendums in Britain and Japan: Turnouts, Campaigns, and Systems.’ Ritsumeikan Law Review, Vol.26, 1–25.Google Scholar
- Kobori, Masahiro (2012) ‘Populism as Rhetorical Politics in Britain and Japan: “Devil take the hindmost”.’ JPSA Paper, 6 October 2012.Google Scholar
- Kokkai, Diet Record, http://www.kokkai.ndl.go.jp/.
- Komatsu, Komatsu (2009) ‘Chihou-Jichi-Tokubetsu-Hou no Seitei-Tetsuzuki nitsuite (As to procedures for the enactment of local autonomy special laws).’ Reference, October 2009.Google Scholar
- Lin, Jih-Wen (2004) ‘Taiwan’s Referendum Act and the Stability of the Status Quo.’ Issues & Studies, 40(2) (June 2004), 119–153.Google Scholar
- Nathan, A.J. (2012) ‘Confucius and the Ballot Box: Why “Asian Values” do not Stymie Democracy.’ Foreign Affairs, July/August, 134–139.Google Scholar
- Noble, L.G. (1976) ‘Philippines 1975: Consolidating the Regime.’ Asian Survey, 16, February, 178–185.Google Scholar
- Penniman, H. (1972) Elections in South Vietnam, Washington DC: AEI.Google Scholar
- Peretz, D. (1959) ‘Democracy and Revolution in Egypt.’ Middle East Journal, 13(1), 26–40.Google Scholar
- Sato, Shunichi (2010) ‘Nihon niokeru Naimu-Sho Kanryo-Tachi no Senzen to Sengo (Officials in Home Department in Pre-War and Post-War Japan).’ Jichi-Soken, 377, March.Google Scholar
- Takayanagi, Kenzou (1972) Nihon-Koku Kenpou Seitei no Katei (Process of the Enactment of the Constitution of Japan, Volume 2), Tokyo: Yuhikaku.Google Scholar
- Wintrobe, R. (2007) ‘Dictatorship: Analytical Approaches.’ In Carles Boix and Susan Stokes (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 363–394.Google Scholar