Direct Democracy Database

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About this database

Democracy is about involvement of the people in the functioning of their government. A wide range of democratic practices exist in order to engage citizens in making political and institutional decisions, while direct democracy instruments allow citizens to formally engage in such democratic decision making.

There are four mechanisms of direct democracy designed to give the electorate increased opportunities to involve themselves in the running of their governments – referendums, citizens’ initiatives, agenda initiatives and recalls. International IDEA’s Direct Democracy Database provides global comparative data about how those four mechanisms of direct democracy are organized in 197 countries across the globe.

The Database provides comparative data as divided into the following five parts:

  1. General part
    contains general data about the existence of specific types of direct democracy instruments, and their legal basis.
  2. Referendum part
    presents specific data about referendum instruments.
  3. Initiative part
    presents specific data about citizens’ and agenda initiative instruments.
  4. Recall part
    covers recall instrument in specific detail.
  5. Signature collection part
    describes how collections are organized for all types of direct democracy instruments that require citizens’ signatures.
Background information


The initial global research on direct democracy was conducted for the Direct Democracy: The International IDEA Handbook published by International IDEA in 2008. Many 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 Database.

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 point 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 their 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 conducts regular desk research to update the Direct Democracy Database. Updates are done by reviewing legal reforms that affect the instruments and procedures of direct democracy. In addition, we invite researchers and practitioners working in the area of democracy to contribute to the curation of the database. If users note that the database has missing, incomplete, incorrect data and/or sources they can use the online form in the “Submit feedback” section. We will review the submission as soon as possible and update the database if the suggested data revision is accurate.

Frequently asked questions

Who created the database?

The database was created by International IDEA under the direction of in-house researchers who studied the legislative documents providing for direct democracy instruments. The community is encouraged to use the database and help us to improve existing entries to keep the database up-to-date.

Where does the data come from?

Data come from different sources, such as constitutions, specific laws providing for direct democracy instruments, electoral laws, materials published by electoral management bodies, and other reputable materials available online.

What should I do if I find missing or incorrect data?

If you note that the database has missing or incorrect data, or if you find missing sources or need further explanation, you can use the online form in the “Submit feedback” section. We will review the submission as soon as possible and update the database if the information submitted is accurate.

Can I get a complete export of all the data?

Yes, there are two options to export all the data in excel file:

Option 1: In the “Search the database” section please click on the “Region/political entity” menu and select “World” option. Then click on the “Search” button. This will produce all the data in the database in a table format. Data from this table can be exported into excel file by clicking on the “Export” button available at the top of the table.

Option 2: Click on the “Advanced Search” hyperlink provided below the “Search the database” section. You will be directed to a specific search interface where you can select all the questions and countries to produce online table presenting all the data. Data from this table can be exported into excel file by clicking on the “Export” button available at the top of the table. In this search interface you can also limit your search to specific sections and/or questions of the database as well as to specific regions and/or countries.

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