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Direct Democracy in the Baltic States: Institutions, Procedures and Practice in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania


Somer, Evren (2012). Direct Democracy in the Baltic States: Institutions, Procedures and Practice in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. c2d Working Papers Series 42, Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA) at the University of Zurich.

Abstract

From the end of 1980s the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania successfully moved towards re-independence. At that stage referendums were a useful tool to carry through the transition peacefully. Today, each constitution of the Baltic Republics provides for instruments of direct democracy that have been used in different ways. It is assumed that the possibility of a referendum introduces the people into the decision-making process as an additional veto player whose participation is needed for a change in the legislative status quo. It is further expected that direct democratic instruments empower the citizens, forming a broader spread of power. The results reported in this paper, however, challenge these assumptions. Regardless of the mechanism employed, direct democracy fails to fulfil the desired effect of allowing citizens to take political decisions directly and over the heads of their representatives. Rather, referendums have been used strategically for partisan interest. The poor performance of direct democracy in the Baltic States to date is not only a result of strategic choices made by the authorities, but also of citizen-unfriendly procedural designs. In all three countries there are many formal constraints diminishing the will of the people.

From the end of 1980s the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania successfully moved towards re-independence. At that stage referendums were a useful tool to carry through the transition peacefully. Today, each constitution of the Baltic Republics provides for instruments of direct democracy that have been used in different ways. It is assumed that the possibility of a referendum introduces the people into the decision-making process as an additional veto player whose participation is needed for a change in the legislative status quo. It is further expected that direct democratic instruments empower the citizens, forming a broader spread of power. The results reported in this paper, however, challenge these assumptions. Regardless of the mechanism employed, direct democracy fails to fulfil the desired effect of allowing citizens to take political decisions directly and over the heads of their representatives. Rather, referendums have been used strategically for partisan interest. The poor performance of direct democracy in the Baltic States to date is not only a result of strategic choices made by the authorities, but also of citizen-unfriendly procedural designs. In all three countries there are many formal constraints diminishing the will of the people.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:Working Paper Series > C2D Working Paper Series
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
340 Law
900 History
Uncontrolled Keywords:Direct democracy, referendum, initiative, Baltic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, veto power
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:16 Apr 2014 09:38
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:50
Series Name:c2d Working Papers Series
Number of Pages:113
ISSN:1662-8152 (E)
Additional Information:Will be published in the series 'Studien des Instituts für Ostrecht München'.
Related URLs:http://www.c2d.ch
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-95339

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