Rosa Balfour – Senior fellow in the Europe Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States
Little wisdom is to be found in the contemporary use of referenda. They are sold as tools of direct democracy to promote political participation among citizens who have turned away from politics. But in practice, they prize majoritarian conceptions of democracy at the expense of pluralist debate.
Ten years ago, political leaders would fudge unfavorable referendum results, such as the Irish people’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, making a mockery of this instrument as a measure of citizens’ preferences. Today, referenda have become political …read more