Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance
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Handbook of Democratic Innovation and Governance

Edited by Stephen Elstub and Oliver Escobar

Democratic innovations are proliferating in politics, governance, policy, and public administration. These new processes of public participation are reimagining the relationship between citizens and institutions. This Handbook advances understanding of democratic innovations, in theory and practice, by critically reviewing their importance throughout the world. The overarching themes are a focus on citizens and their relationship to these innovations, and the resulting effects on political equality. The Handbook therefore offers a definitive overview of existing research on democratic innovations, while also setting the agenda for future research and practice.
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Chapter 6: Referendums and citizens’ initiatives

Maija Jäske and Maija Setälä

Abstract

This chapter discussed referendums and citizens’ initiatives as instruments of direct democracy. We first introduce some classifications, and point out the large variation between direct democratic instruments and their roles in political systems. After this, special attention is paid to three major areas of criticism of direct democracy. First, we discuss the problems of voter competence, as well as the problem of the lack of deliberation in referendum campaigns. Second, we discuss the problems related to government-initiated referendums, especially their manipulative usages and their negative impact on parliamentary deliberation. The third issue pertains to the role of money and organised interests in citizens’ initiatives. Finally, we discuss two practices that provide new solutions to some of these perennial problems. The Citizens’ Initiative Review in Oregon is a system designed to improve voter competence, while the Finnish Citizens’ Initiative couples with online citizens’ initiatives with parliamentary procedures.

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