The initial global research on direct democracy was conducted for the Direct Democracy: The International IDEA Handbook published by International IDEA in 2008. A great number of organizations and individuals were involved in this research which was one of the major global studies of direct democracy. The data gathered for the Handbook were later transferred to the Direct Democracy section of the IDEA’s Unified Database.
Taking into account the importance of direct democracy tools in strengthening citizens’ active participation in political decision making and considering the overall interest in the topic, International IDEA has conducted a more comprehensive global research of direct democracy during 2013-2014. The aim was to update the previous database and also expand its content by providing more in depth analyses of direct democracy instruments used in various countries.
The old version of the database consisted of only one part targeting general questions about direct democracy. The updated and expanded version of the Direct Democracy database now provides more detailed data divided into following five parts:
- General part – contains general data about the existence of specific types of direct democracy instruments, and legal basis for those.
- Referendum part – presents specific data about the referendum instruments.
- Initiative part – contains detailed data about how initiatives are organized and administered.
- Recall part – covers recall instrument in specific detail.
- Signature collection part – describes how signature collection is organized for all types of direct democracy instruments that require citizens’ signatures.
The primary source used for the research was the constitution. However, in most cases, additional legal documents, such as the electoral laws, specific referendum laws and other relevant legislative documents, were also included when it was evident that they stipulated direct democracy procedures. The legal sources used for each data and relevant quotes have been provided in the online database, together with links leading to texts of the original documents available online.
The legal provisions for direct democracy instruments are complex in some countries, which posed a challenge when classifying the data in the database. Nevertheless, the researchers engaged in the study tried to be consistent in the interpretation of the law. When the laws are not clear in certain provisions, the relevant explanations have been provided in the comments sections.
International IDEA’s Electoral Processes Programme conducts regular desk research to update the Direct Democracy database. Periodic global studies will also be conducted which will involve regional researchers and organizations. In addition, International IDEA invites researchers and practitioners working in the area of direct democracy to contribute to the update of the database. If users note that the database has missing data, or if they find data that is incorrect, missing sources or requires more explanation, users can use the edit icon next to the data or click on the data in the preview window, and fill in the “Edit data” form. International IDEA will review the submission as soon as possible and update the database if the data suggested is correct.
For more information about the database contact: a.solijonov