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Representative and direct democracy

One of the major conclusions reached by both Budge and Kriesi in earlier chapters in this book is that the instruments of direct and participatory democracy operate in close partnership in practice, and should do so in theory if direct democracy is to avoid the problems that seem to beset it in a pure form. This line of argument raises an important question about democratic innovations, especially those intended to introduce direct democracy: to what extent are the workings of democratic innovations limited and conditioned by the fact that they are created by and embedded in the institutions of established forms of government, and to the extent that their operations are guided by, or even controlled by, traditional political elites?

This chapter will examine the question by looking closely at the main forms of direct citizen involvement in the government and politics of established democracies. The forms in question are town meetings, citizen initiatives, election recalls, referendums, and experiments with co-governance. Some of these can no longer claim to be innovatory because they date back to the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, they are found in only a few rather restricted areas of the world and continue to be held up as models of direct democracy in practice that should be replicated in other parts of the globe. Another advantage is that we can judge their effectiveness from their long history.

 
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