Direct Democracy

The use of direct democracy as a means of resolving political issues, is assuming greater importance throughout the world. Direct democracy has many forms and variations and among these are:

  • Referendums, initiated by governments, legislatures or citizens to deal with political, legislative or constitutional issues;
  • Citizen Initiatives, which are citizen initiated ballots;
  • Agenda Initiatives, which are also initiated by the citizens but no vote takes place; and
  • Recall votes, which allow the electorate to vote on whether to end the term of office of an elected official, if enough signatures in support of the recall vote are collected.

The use of all four mechanisms can occur at the national or sub national levels.

International IDEA and its partners are conducting a global survey on direct democracy to collect and analyse data on the laws and regulations governing the practice of direct democracy instruments worldwide and to develop a deeper understanding of the impact of direct democracy and its relationship to existing democratic institutions and processes. In so doing, it will be possible to identify the need for reform.

The comparative information is being compiled in the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network database for use by legislators, electoral management bodies, political parties, the media, academics, citizens’ groups and other people interested in democratic reform and the use of direct democracy.

In December 2008, International IDEA published Direct Democracy: The International IDEA Handbook now available for purchase and download.

Direct Democracy

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