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Uruguay: A prodigious user of direct democracy mechanisms


Altman, David (2008). Uruguay: A prodigious user of direct democracy mechanisms. c2d Working Papers Series 24, Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA) at the University of Zurich.

Abstract

Uruguay is one of the most prodigious users of mechanism of direct democracy in the world and it provides a rich milieu to test many hypotheses advanced by a literature that principally comes from the "north," and very especially from Switzerland (the world champion of direct democracy) and from the United States, where direct democracy is frequently used at the state level. This literature tends to suggest that economic interests or social groups could easily utilize direct democracy for their own particular benefit, making it, in the end, harmful to representative democracy. Nonetheless, this study will show that, at least for the Uruguayan case, this argument does not hold equally and consistently for all cases. Mechanisms of direct democracy in Uruguay do not undermine representative democracy because their passage depends largely on the mobilization efforts of organized partisan groups operating outside the conventional legislative arena. In this small country, unlike other cases, the central actors working for the approval of mechanisms of direct democracy are political parties' fractions, the basic institutions of electoral, legislative, and political representation. Therefore, an overall normative evaluation of mechanisms of direct democracy as either inherently good or bad for representative democracy must take into account the very different institutional contexts in which these mechanisms are utilized, as well as the strength of the political actors involved.

Abstract

Uruguay is one of the most prodigious users of mechanism of direct democracy in the world and it provides a rich milieu to test many hypotheses advanced by a literature that principally comes from the "north," and very especially from Switzerland (the world champion of direct democracy) and from the United States, where direct democracy is frequently used at the state level. This literature tends to suggest that economic interests or social groups could easily utilize direct democracy for their own particular benefit, making it, in the end, harmful to representative democracy. Nonetheless, this study will show that, at least for the Uruguayan case, this argument does not hold equally and consistently for all cases. Mechanisms of direct democracy in Uruguay do not undermine representative democracy because their passage depends largely on the mobilization efforts of organized partisan groups operating outside the conventional legislative arena. In this small country, unlike other cases, the central actors working for the approval of mechanisms of direct democracy are political parties' fractions, the basic institutions of electoral, legislative, and political representation. Therefore, an overall normative evaluation of mechanisms of direct democracy as either inherently good or bad for representative democracy must take into account the very different institutional contexts in which these mechanisms are utilized, as well as the strength of the political actors involved.

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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
Language:English
Date:2008
Deposited On:16 Apr 2014 10:15
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 05:23
Series Name:c2d Working Papers Series
Number of Pages:16
ISSN:1662-8152 (E)

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