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The Usage Government-Initiated Referendums in Latin America. Towards a Theory of Referendum Causes

El uso de los referendos de iniciativa gubernamental en AmГ©rica Latina. Hacia una teorГ­a sobre las causas del uso de votaciones populares iniciadas por el gobierno


Department of Comparative Politics, University of Cologne

Within the last two years there is a substantial escalation in the sheer number of referendums worldwide. The literature that is existing direct democracy has thus far neglected to explain this sensation by delivering a regular concept from the factors behind referendums. This explorative study aims at undertaking actions toward shutting this gap by concentrating on the precise form of facultative government-initiated referendums (FGIR) and their use within presidential systems. Utilizing QC A (a technique that is case-sensitive in the formal logic of Boolean algebra), this research methodically compares the governmental possibility structures of 49 presidential systems from 12 Latin US countries to identify the factors that spurred or obstructed the occurrence of FGIR. It concludes that FGIR are closely associated with high amounts of celebration system fragmentation and split federal government, for example. two facets that have always been considered problematic when you look at the context of presidential systems, while their obstruction is mainly owed towards the certain provisions that are constitutional the referendum unit.

Keyword Phrases: Referendums, Latin America, Fragmentation, Direct Democracy.


En las Гєltimas dos dГ©cadas Ma existido alrededor del mundo un considerable aumento en el nГєmero de votaciones populares. En cambio, la literatura existente sobre democracia directa no na sabido explicar el fenГіmeno mediante una teorГ­a consistente de las causas de los referendums. Este estudio exploratorio busca paso that is dar un para cerrar esta brecha, enfocГЎndose en los referendum facultativos iniciados por poderes polГ­ticos formales (facultative government-initiated referendums – FGIR) y su uso en los sistemas presidenciales. Utilizando OCA (tГ©cnica basada en lГіgica formal de ГЎlgebra booleanas), este estudio hace una comparaciГіn sistemГЎtica de la estructura de oportunidades polГ­ticas de 49 sistemas presidenciales de 12 paГ­ses de AmГ©rica Latina, para detectar los factores estimulan that is que obstruyen la ocurrencia de FGIR. Se concluye que los FGIR estГЎn fuertemente ligados a altos niveles de fragmentaciГіn partidaria y gobiernos divididos, dos factores que han sido problemГЎticos en los contextos de sistemas presidenciales. Por su parte, la obstrucciГіn se debe principalmente a provisiones constitucionales especГ­ficas que regulan los dispositivos de las votaciones populares iniciadas por el gobierno.

Palabras Clave: Plebiscito, AmГ©rica Latina, fragmentaciГіn, democracia directa.


The practical application of direct democratic instruments has increased considerably (LeDuc, 2003). 2 This trend has attracted scholarly attention and over recent years, considerable research investigating direct democracy has been published in renowned journals in the field of political science from the 1960s onwards, various nations of the world embraced the idea of direct democracy and over the past two decades. Thus far this literary works has mainly dedicated to the 2 countries that most usually utilize referendums, Switzerland plus the united states of america from the state degree (Ladner and Brandle, 1999; Gerber, 1996; Papadopulos, 2001; Tolbert and Hero, 1996; Vatter and Freitag, 2006), while a smaller sized amount of magazines have actually centered on the revolution of referendums entailed in the act of European integration (Hug and Sciarini, 2000; Franklin et ah, 1995). These magazines have actually significantly added to the knowledge in connection with impact of referendums on politics as well as on diverse societal aspects. But, they will have not yet produced a constant concept on the reasons for referendums. The goal of this paper would be to undertake steps that are initial bridging this gap.

Up To a large level, the ‘boom’ in direct democracy could be credited toward the increased quantity of citizen-initiated referendums and, to an inferior level, mandatory referendums (Morel, 2001) This development happens to be welcomed by advocates of direct democracy whom emphasize the possibility of those tools to foster bottom-up participation and straight accountability (Barber, 1984; Schmitter, 2000). Nonetheless, on several occasions, non-mandatory referendums on essential political concerns have already been initiated by governing bodies i.e. legislatures or professionals. Such government-initiated referendums, which are generally known as plebiscites, 3 a phrase that holds a small negative connotation, largely retain control of governmental decision-making in the hands of elected officials.

The occurrence of facultative government-initiated referendums (FGIR) 4 poses a theoretical puzzle (Rahat, 2007) despite contributing little to the overall increase in direct democracy.

Even though it is understandable that residents will take part in processes of decision-making when given the directly to do this, governmental elites’ utilization of direct democratic instruments is harder to understand. exactly What motivates regulating authorities to start referendums? Why should democratically legitimised representatives voluntarily provide up their monopoly to legislate, redistribute energy downwards, equal themselves with ordinary residents in governmental decision-making, and ultimately expose on their own towards the threat of losing during the ballot field? The main goal of this explorative research is to offer possible responses to those concerns.

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