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Directdemocracyand representative
democracy
 Direct democracy occurs “where the will of the people is
translated into pub...
Advantagesand disadvantagesof direct
democracy
Advantages
 Purest form of democracy.
Committed democrats are very
much in...
What is a referendum?
 A form of direct democracy
 A vote by the whole electorate on a specific policy proposal
such as ...
Referendums in the UK
 1973 – Held in Northern Ireland over the creation of a power-sharing
assembly. The referendum was ...
Referendums in the UK cont.
Howdo referendumswork?
 The question is set by the Government
 Parliament calls a referendum
 The Government does not a...
Whywould the Government hold a
referendum?
 Although it sounds cynical, the government tends to hold a
referendum when it...
What is thedifference betweena referendum,
and an election?
Referendum
 An illustration of direct
democracy
 Called by P...
Are referendumsdemocratic?
YES
 A form of direct democracy,
which is the purest form of
democracy
 The public can transl...
Whatare thearguments in favourof
referendums?
 As a form of direct democracy, referendums are more
democratic than holdin...
Whatare thearguments in favourof
referendums?
 Can break a ‘logjam’ over frozen issues within parties,
eg EU membership
Whatare thearguments against
referendums?
 Some (complex) issues are best left to elected representatives,
rather than th...
Whatare thearguments against
referendums?
 Referendums are associated with extremist regimes
 Can be used to discriminat...
Whatare thearguments against
referendums?
 Undermines Parliamentary sovereignty – the core concept of the
UK’s constituti...
1a kno how on direct democracy & referendum
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1a kno how on direct democracy & referendum

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1a kno how on direct democracy & referendum

  1. 1. Directdemocracyand representative democracy  Direct democracy occurs “where the will of the people is translated into public policy directly by the people”  Today, direct democracy is rare. One of the few examples of direct democracy is a referendum  Purest form of democracy, but impractical  Direct democracy is government “by the people”
  2. 2. Advantagesand disadvantagesof direct democracy Advantages  Purest form of democracy. Committed democrats are very much in favour of “government by the people”  The will of the people is directly translated into policy  Avoids all the problems associated with representative democracy (i.e. when representatives become out of touch) Disadvantages  Impractical as it would be time- consuming and very costly to consult the public on a regular basis  The people might place short- term interest over what is good in the long-run  The majority could use a referendum to discriminate against minorities  Elected representatives may know more about an issue than the general public
  3. 3. What is a referendum?  A form of direct democracy  A vote by the whole electorate on a specific policy proposal such as the devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament  Referendums allows the people to register their views on an important constitutional issues  From 1979 to 1997, the then Conservative government never held a referendum. Since 1997, referendums have become increasingly common  The 1st referendum held in the UK was in 1973  The only nation-wide referendum held in the UK was in 1975 over the issue of membership to the EC
  4. 4. Referendums in the UK  1973 – Held in Northern Ireland over the creation of a power-sharing assembly. The referendum was boycotted by Catholics
  5. 5. Referendums in the UK cont.
  6. 6. Howdo referendumswork?  The question is set by the Government  Parliament calls a referendum  The Government does not always get its own way (e.g. devolved assemblies to the English regions were defeated in 2004)  Government’s tend to implement the result. However in practise, it can ignore the result, as the Danish government did when the people rejected the Maastricht Treaty  Rather than strengthening democracy, opponents of referendums argue that they merely reinforce the power of the executive
  7. 7. Whywould the Government hold a referendum?  Although it sounds cynical, the government tends to hold a referendum when it has a good chance of winning  Due to pressure from various groups (e.g. demands for some form of Scottish autonomy from Westminster)  Manifesto commitment  Because major constitutional issues require the public to register their support. This makes the decision appear more legitimate  To resolve a difficult issue  To facilitate greater democracy  To stay in touch with public opinion  As a means by which to side-step divisions within their own party, as with the EC referendum held in 1975
  8. 8. What is thedifference betweena referendum, and an election? Referendum  An illustration of direct democracy  Called by Parliament at irregular intervals  The choice is either yes, or no  The Government does not, in practise, have to honour the result. Election  An illustration of representative democracy  Many different types of election called at regular intervals  Choice between several candidates representing various political parties
  9. 9. Are referendumsdemocratic? YES  A form of direct democracy, which is the purest form of democracy  The public can translate their will directly into public policy  Can stimulate interest and participation in political matters NO  Referendums undermine the role of elected representatives  Referendums challenge the primacy of Parliamentary sovereignty  Referendums have been associated with extremist regimes. The German constitution actually forbids the use of referendums due to their association with the Nazi party
  10. 10. Whatare thearguments in favourof referendums?  As a form of direct democracy, referendums are more democratic than holding elections increasing legitimacy over major issues by encouraging political participation, stimulating public interest and making consent clear.  Referendums offer a precise answer to a precise question, eg Scottish independence  Referendums do not undermine parliamentary sovereignty as the government is, in theory, not bound by the result  On important issues, and especially constitutional issues, surely it is right for the public to be consulted?  Prevents elected representatives becoming out of touch with the electorate
  11. 11. Whatare thearguments in favourof referendums?  Can break a ‘logjam’ over frozen issues within parties, eg EU membership
  12. 12. Whatare thearguments against referendums?  Some (complex) issues are best left to elected representatives, rather than the public. The biggest issues in public life are often too complex to be reduced to Yes/No. Debate is dominated by those with the most emotive slogans. How can the public decide rationally on a single European currency if the most highly- qualified experts cannot agree? Eg abortion.  Referendums are little more than a photograph of public opinion on a given day, which binds all future generations to that result (unless parliament calls another referendum)  The result can be determined by an apathetic public, as in the case of Welsh devolution where barely a quarter of the electorate voted in favour of devolution  Governments can, at least in theory, ignore the result; although this would be politically difficult to achieve.
  13. 13. Whatare thearguments against referendums?  Referendums are associated with extremist regimes  Can be used to discriminate against minorities. For example women gained the vote in Switzerland as recently as 1971 because until then, only men could vote in a referendum  The media can hold excessive influence over the result of a referendum.  During a referendum campaign, wealthy groups have an unfair advantage. This was the case in the 1975 referendum on the issue of EC membership  Rather than being a means of enhancing democracy, it might simply be a way for governments to deal with issues that divide their party
  14. 14. Whatare thearguments against referendums?  Undermines Parliamentary sovereignty – the core concept of the UK’s constitution. Scottish or Welsh devolution could not be reversed by a single vote of the Commons. It would require at least another referendum. So the sovereignty of parliament has been limited, if not reversed.  As the government sets the question (The way the question is phrased can greatly affect the result, thus rendering the whole process meaningless), referendums ultimately enhance the power of the executive Governments usually choose when and if there is to be a referendum, thus making it very much an instrument of state power not one of voter-power (except in states where the “initiative” policy is in place).  However, the arrival of the independent Electoral Commission has changed the ground rules here. The EC will have a legal responsibility to approve whatever question is finally put in front of the public. It will ensure it is balanced and fair.]

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