Direct Democracy Database

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About the Database

The Direct Democracy Database allows users to explore the different ways direct democracy is used in different countries. First the user selects a country, region, or international organization. Then they can select a field (general, referendum, initiative, recall, or signature collection). After making their selections, they are able to view data on how the instruments of direct democracy they selected are used in those particular countries.

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, the Direct Democracy Database now provides more detailed data divided into following five parts:

1. General part

contains general data about the existence of specific types of direct democracy instruments, and legal basis for those.

2. Referendum part

presents specific data about the referendum instruments.

3. Initiative part

The third section deals with the rules for how much and on what political parties and candidates can spend money.

4. Recall part

covers recall instrument in specific detail

5. Signature collection part

describes how signature collection is organized for all types of direct democracy instruments that require citizens’ signatures.


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 International IDEA’s Global Database on Elections and Democracy.

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.


The database was created by International IDEA to store, update and analyze data from more than 10 years of research. The community is encouraged to use the information and help us to improve existing entries and keep the database up to date.
The data has been collected by International IDEA and its partners during previous and ongoing projects. We are now encouraging the community to assist in the maintenance of the data, but will approve all submissions and check accuracy and sources wherever possible.
Most pages showing data include an edit icon that will take you to an edit page. Here you can edit the current data, add new data for a different year or simply add a comment, link or an additional source.
To make sure that real people are editing data, we require a valid email address. The first time you make an edit from a computer, we send a verification email that then stores a special code in a cookie. Any other edits you make from that computer are connected to that same email address.
Each of the thematic pages has a list of example queries that cover common searches of interest. You can also choose to select all countries and all fields to view and export all the data for that theme. Currently there is no option to export all the data from the entire database at once.


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