In a democracy, formal popular votes are important to the exercise of people power.

Traditionally, in most representative democracies, the power of citizens to make decisions at the ballot box was restricted to the elections of other people and parties to offices and parliament. However, in recent years more and more countries have adopted new possibilities and channels for citizens to make their voices heard—even between election days.

This Global Passport to Modern Direct Democracy offers basic information about the tools of direct democracy. It introduces key definitions, describes various tools, and includes recommendations on how to use initiatives, referendums and plebiscites.

International IDEA supports the development and use of democratic procedures and practices around the world. Our Direct Democracy Database is a unique resource for democratic practitioners, administrators and observers. This Passport complements our 2008 publication, Direct Democracy: The International IDEA Handbook.


Publication date
14 September 2017
Bruno Kaufmann
Number of pages
Embassy of Switzerland in Sweden, Swiss Democracy Foundation
978-91-7671-126-2 (Print)


The world of active citizenship and participatory democracy

Your fundamental rights

Your guide to modern direct democracy

Modern direct democracy: initiatives, referendums and beyond

Define your role and interest in modern direct democracy

Where do you want to exercise your participatory rights?

Choose your direct democracy tool

Citizens’ initiatives

Popular referendums

You don’t have to go it alone

Getting involved: a step-by-step guide

Mandatory referendums: when the law says ‘by the people’

The plebiscite: a top-down amalgam

The recall: mixing people and issues from the bottom-up

Involving the people in many ways

How to make modern direct democracy work



International IDEA: supporting (direct) democracy worldwide

Switzerland: a natural reference point and support centre

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Global Passport to Modern Direct Democracy

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