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Cover Comparative Politics

10. Democratic innovations  

Nicole Curato

This chapter introduces the theory and practice of democratic innovations, such as citizen-initiated referendums, participatory budgeting, and citizens’ assemblies. It characterizes what makes these approaches innovative and distinctly democratic by situating them in the traditions of direct, participatory, and deliberative democracy. The chapter critically examines the purpose and limits of democratic innovations, presents debates on how these approaches are being applied and institutionalized around the world, provides examples and case studies of democratic innovations from around the world, and concludes by putting forward provocative questions on what it means for citizens to meaningfully take part in democratic decision-making in contemporary times.

Chapter

Cover UK Politics

8. Referendums  

This chapter starts with a definition of the term ‘referendum’. A referendum is a means of involving the public in political decisions via voting on specific issues such as leaving the European Union. The chapter focuses on the use of referendums at the local level. It sets out the key features of a referendum. Who is allowed to vote in referendums? What sort of questions are put to voters? Under want circumstances should a referendum take place on specific issues? What are the risks associated with holding a referendum? The chapter also looks at regulations surrounding referendums in the UK. The theoretical considerations that the chapter examines are the fact that a referendum subject tends to be controversial, the relationship between referendums and direct democracy and the implications of the results.

Chapter

Cover Comparative European Politics

6. Beyond Electoral Representation  

Direct and Deliberative Democracy

David M. Farrell and Luke Field

This chapter examines some of the main alternatives to representative methods of democratic decision-making practised in contemporary Europe. The chapter first focuses on referendums, providing an overview of their use across Europe’s democracies and examining how much scope is given to citizens to control when they are held and what they are about. The chapter then reviews the wider panoply of democratic innovations that, in combination, see democracies move beyond being merely ‘vote-centred’ representative processes. This includes the relatively recent emergence of deliberative forms of democracy, in which citizens are brought into the heart of debates on key policy issues through their involvement in ‘deliberative mini-publics’ such as citizens’ assemblies.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

10. Elections and Referendums  

Michael Gallagher

This chapter focuses on the two main opportunities that people have to vote in most societies: elections and referendums. Elections are held to fill seats in parliaments or to choose a president, whereas referendums allow citizens to decide directly on some issue of policy. Elections are the cornerstone of representative democracy, and referendums are sometimes regarded as the equivalent of ‘direct democracy’. In practice, referendums are used only as an option in systems of representative democracy. The chapter first provides an overview of elections and electoral systems, focusing on electoral regulations and the main categories of electoral systems, namely single-member plurality, alternative vote, two-round system, and proportional representation. It then examines the rules under which elections are held, as well as the consequences of this variation. It also considers the use of the referendum and its potential impact on politics.

Chapter

Cover Foundations of European Politics

6. Electoral Systems and Direct Democracy  

This chapter starts off with an overview of the institutions that decide how citizens cast ballots, firstly, in elections, and secondly, directly for policy. The former is related to electoral systems and the latter to direct democracy. The chapter considers the implications of these institutions for party systems and political representation from the view point of the principal–agent framework. There is a large variety of electoral systems used in Europe. Most elections are held using the system of proportional representation. However, there are important institutional differences that need to be remembered. The chapter then goes on to examine the effects of electoral systems on the party system. This is carried out with electoral change over time in mind. Finally, the chapter turns to direct democracy and analyses the use of referendums, specifically with regard to the question of the European Union (EU).