The Wider Use of Referendums Would Increase Participation Essay

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“THE WIDER USE OF REFERENDUMS WOULD INCREASE PARTICIPATION?” TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT? A Referendum is a vote on a single issue put to a public ballot by the government of the day. Referendums offer a degree of direct democracy. They are generally framed in the form of a simple ‘yes/no’ question. Between 1973 and 1997, there were 4 referendums in Britain. Between 1997 and 2000, there have been 4 more. However, 7 of these were for local issues and only one was for a national question. Two have been on Northern Ireland, 4 have been on devolution, and one has been on the issue of the Lord Mayor of London. The national one was on whether Britain should join what was then the EEC (European Economic Community). This national one was held in 1975. Since then there has not been a national referendum. There are reasons why referendums do actually increase participation and reasons why it does not. Firstly, Referendums are a form of direct democracy. In a direct democracy, there is no separation between the state and the electorate. All citizens are involved in the decision-making process and can participate in assembly sessions, vote on public policy and select officials. Supporters of referendums believe they encourage participation in the political process. In a country in which participation for many people is limited to Election Day, the greater use of referendums would stimulate involvement and lead to more public discussion of important issues. Switzerland is the main modern example of direct democracy. Citizens’ initiatives allow ordinary citizens to put their own proposals forward for public vote, and the national government is required to hold referendums on major issues. In Denmark and Switzerland, supporters of referendums claim that they have significantly advanced citizen understanding of issues under consideration – this makes

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