UPDATE 15/07/2016: The new UK government of Theresa May is now in place, and the faces of Britain’s presumptive negotiating team have been revealed. Eurosceptics have filled some of the key positions: David Davis has been made Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (a.k.a. the new “Brexit Minister”); Liam Fox is in charge of International Trade; and the charmed Boris Johnson has, unexpectedly, been appointed Foreign Secretary.

By making space in her cabinet for Leave campaigners, commentators suspect the new British Prime Minister hopes to heal Tory divisions created by the referendum campaign, as well as to insulate herself from charges that any deal struck with the EU will be a “betrayal” of the referendum vote. Indeed, Theresa May has pledged that “Brexit means Brexit”. But, rhetorical tautologies aside, what does Brexit really mean?

On the face of it, May has a broad mandate to forge whatever kind of deal she wants. The Leave side went out of their way to present Brexit as all things to all people, meaning that a large chunk of the population are inevitably going to be disappointed whatever the specifics of the new EU deal. But because voters weren’t given a detailed plan of exactly what Brexit would look like, was the referendum process flawed? Would Brexit supporters be disappointed if their vote ends up delivering associate EU status, leaving freedom of movement intact and continued British payments to the EU? Or is that the democratic mandate that Theresa May has been given?

One of the candidates in the Labour Party leadership race, Owen Smith, has pledged to offer the British public a second referendum on any Brexit deal once the negotiations are concluded. Would that be a solution? Or would a second referendum be undemocratic?

ORIGINAL 08/05/2015: Margaret Thatcher (quoting Clement Attlee approvingly) once referred to referendums as ‘a device for dictators and demagogues’. They reduce complicated issues down to simplistic ‘yes/no’ questions. They allow elected representatives to abrogate responsibility. They weaken the constitutional protection of minorities and can lead to a ‘tyranny of the majority’.

Critics argue that it is a misrepresentation of constitutional democracy to claim, as South African President Jacob Zuma has, that: “You have more rights because you’re a majority; you have less rights because you’re a minority.”

Yet, in 2009, a majority of Swiss voters decided to restrict the rights of a minority group by banning the construction of minarets in Switzerland (despite there being a grand total of four minarets in the country at the time the ban was enacted).

Most democracies operate according to ‘representative democracy’ – that is, citizens elect representatives who then debate and decide upon issues on their behalf. Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world to implement a system of direct democracy, where citizens can petition to hold referendums on different policies.

Direct democracy is said to be the main reason for Switzerland’s political stability. Despite being a multilingual, multi-ethnic confederacy, Switzerland has enjoyed one of the longest periods of peace and stability of any country in the world. In addition, it has a stable economy (excepting the recent Swiss Franc shock after abandoning its peg to the euro), and low government debt. How much of this is thanks to Switzerland’s celebrated political model?

Click here for a full overview of arguments in favor and against EU referendums.

Do referendums undermine representative democracy? Or is Swiss democracy the way forward? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!


181 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Andreas Siantos

    It mainly depends on the options being given, but in crucial times referendums are the ultimate form of direct democracy (as long as the government respects the result, what ever that may be).

  2. avatar
    Глобалността и ние

    Margaret Thatcher was a **** *****. The problem is not in the referendum, but in the morals of politicians, the media and all of the elite who prefers to rule behind the facade of democracy and not likes to go out into the light.

  3. avatar
    Costi Ciudin

    “A 5 minnutes talk with the average voter is the best argument against democracy” (Churchill)

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      You have just hidden behind another mans words like some coward to claim that democracy is not a legitiate system,so whats your alternative?

  4. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Definition of ‘Dictatorship’:

    “A form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator, Commissioner, Politburo, Commission or clique.”

    i.e The Unelected ‘European Commission’.

    Under any form of unrepresentative or antidemocratic rule referendum are the only way for the people to speck, as the EU is about to find out.

    • avatar

      “i.e The Unelected ‘European Commission’.”

      The commission isn’t unelected, no matter how often ignorants like you claim that. It is voted on by the pertinent bodies, the council and the parliament – as most executives are.

      The German government hasn’t been elected by the people, the Chancellor has been elected by the Bundestag, the UK government hasn’t been elected by the people, the Prime Minister is appointed by the monarch, and the French government is appointed by the President who has been elected by the people – but the government hasn’t.

      Learn some political literacy instead of mindlessly parroting any nonsense you find on the net.

    • avatar

      I would like to hear your response to this, Ivan, because you (and others like you) come on this forum and keep repeating the same nonsensical thing over and over again claiming that you are somehow democratic and others aren’t. You sound like you are being employed by Putin to defame the EU and sow discontent. Are you?

    • avatar

      Using the UKs system: ALL memebers of the government are elected MPs – the ones who write and vote on the laws have all been elected. You are now thinking of the silly house of lords – well they can table amendments – but the parliament can insist that a law be passed so in reality the house of lords is an expensive, ineffective and irrelevant anacronism. The queen technically appoints the prime minister – but that really is only a tradition – she does not decide who the prime minister should be.

      Now lets look at the EU commision – it is the executive body – it makes laws. It has a few places where it can make laws which do not have to go before the only elected body in the EU (the european parliament – EP).

      ALL of its 28 members are appointed by national governments – it is true that the EP – but they can only reject all or none – and the replacements would still come from the appointees of the national governments.

      So they are not at all elected by the people – for example the UK representative is a lord – and has never faced the electorate – in fact nearly all were either lords, de-elected or failed/corrupt politicians. It’s treated as either a way to reward cronyism or as a way to get rid of unwanted idiots.

      The Slovenian appointee was the prime minister of the country – who had just lost an election and decided to appoint herself as EC commisioner – she was questioned by MEPs and found to be incompetent in the area she was to function in – she was quietly replaced by another appointee.

      So the lawmakers are not in any way elected. The only elected representatives are the clowns and failed/corrupt set of politicians in the EP – and they can only debate, amend and possibly stop laws.

      This is a long way from a democratic process. The UK system is flawed in so many ways – but not nearly as fatally flawed as that installed in the EU.

      Democratic it isn’t

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      * government members are not universally elected in this sense that they must be MP-s. Maybe it is true in UK, but this is not universally so.
      * Does EC really “make laws”? I don’t think so (but am happy to be corrected). These may be certain executive orders.
      * so a solution might be the EP to set up the commission, instead of member states appointing commissioners? Or set up EP as a two-house system: one house is the current EP and the other one contains the representatives of the member states, similar to what the Council currently is.

    • avatar


      That’s cute. Constructing an executive mandate for the government out of the fact that a few thousand people in Shropshire voted for an MP.

      Sorry to say, but you demonstrate being completely and utterly ignorant even of the UK system. Ministers are appointed by the PM. They do not get their office out of being elected as MPs. That they should be MPs is pure tradition, and a reasonably young one. It’s also not a democratic asset, it’s a flaw, as it undermines the separation of powers.

      Your characterisation of the EP is further evidence of being a complete and utter ignorant. The EP has the power to stop a commission from even forming, and has done so in the past. It also can reject legislature.

      Sorry to say, but the EU has far, far more democratic mandate than the UK with its election system that is utterly farcical in the results it produces (it doesn’t even reflect the will of the people in its constituencies, much less on the national level) and head of government appointed by a hereditary monarch.

      Conversely, the EU Commission is elected by the Council, a chamber composed of the national governments, themselves equipped with a democratic mandate from their nations, much like the German Bundesrat is composed of the federal state governments. The EU Commission also is critically dependent on a vote of confidence by the EP – quite in contrast to the UK government, which can take office without any parliamentary support, as long as they don’t try to pass a budget or a bill. Not so the EU Commission. Not so the German government. Not so many other governments, all of which depend critically on a vote of confidence by parliament.

      And once more, since you seem quite obsessed about that fact: A constituency voting for someone as an MP is neither an indication that this constituency, nor the people at large, want to see the guy in government, or consider him qualified for more than being a backbencher.

  5. avatar
    Alex Sascha

    Better a referendum than unelected undemocratic politicians like Von Rampuoy…the whole EU is undemocratic…f this europe

    • avatar

      No, it isn’t, you’re simply ill informed.

    • avatar
      Steve P

      Well said Alex,but we will be out soon

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      Alex, if you claim like this… What does ‘democratic’ mean in your case?

    • avatar

      Democratic means I can elect or not elect the lawmakers – I can get rid of them. NONE of the commission were elected by the public – they and the european council (another set of unelected appointees) draft EU laws. This is not a recognised form of democracy – possibly except by North Korea – as it resembles that in many ways…

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      EC is not lawmakers. Lawmakers are those that _pass_ the laws, not those who draft them. It is more like national government. These are appointed, based on the majority in the parliament, and nowhere elected AFAIK.

      EU is more complex that because the Commission must get green light both from the European Parliament and by the member states. It is a bit like two-house parliament (cf US Senate and House).

    • avatar

      How do you know he is ill informed?
      Did you ask him?
      So someone who has a opinion that you don’t agree with is the definition of being ill-informed?
      Next time come better than that. Actually answer someone’s comment and go in on specifics so that you don’t agree with and counter those specifics and if you can’t then maybe it’s better you make no comment at all, surely your comments that are often insulting and containing non positions will not be missed by anybody.

  6. avatar
    Ecs Ferreira

    Referendum: it depends how it is proposeded. Must be written by a team accepted by every body.

  7. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    Referendum should be applied when politicians working against the people who elected them.

  8. avatar
    Dionìs Koçi

    Referendums undemocratic and for dictators? That’s a pretty difficult connection to be made.

  9. avatar
    Myron Kanakis

    you are undemocratic fascists burreaucrats of e.u.Who was elected?Daisenbloum?Van Rompay?Draghi? BASTARDS FASCISTS

    • avatar

      Draghi is the head of the central bank. You know any head of a central bank worldwide who was elected?

      Van Rompuy was elected by the pertinent forum – the European Council he presides. Just as the president of any other parliament is elected by that parliament.

      And the same holds true for pretty much everything else. You are woefully politically illiterate.

    • avatar

      That is Greece’s biggest problem, Myron, lack of political literacy amongst the population as well as lack of basic common sense. I am not optimistic about the future of Greece.

    • avatar
      Stephen Pockley

      Well put Myton you Greeks need to take to the streets you have now been taken over by the Germans and the EU.To get your country back you have to leave and start again.You have support all over Europe from the people .The EU is nothing but a controlling bullying dictatorship the sooner it folds the better.

    • avatar
      hans van veen

      You`re missing the point.
      It doesn`t matter if Dijsselbloem or Van Rompuy or Draghi are elected or not.
      The EU train moves on, despite financial losses or public opinion.

      The populist parties rules in “Brussels” and “Berlin”
      Schäuble said it like this: Nothing can change the EU policy, no election or referendum result. Taking about democracy and even more future vision!
      Not even a bit of desire to adjust the course
      And “Greece” proves it. The population said NO, by 62%. But Tripass chickened out, to holds his back straight against “Brussels ” and “Berlin”
      Every European ideas to work together are gone.
      Since the banking union is born, we have the transferunion. North-South.
      Simply because, the EU doesn’t work and the Euro splits Europe.

    • avatar
      hans van veen

      @ O.H.

      You`re missing the point. As You`re with most of Your comments on this page.
      Elected or not. The EU politicians wants us in one direction.
      If You otherwise, they `ll force You financially on Your knees.
      The best example is the Greek referendum. The population voted voted clear with 62% NO.
      Ohhhhhhhhhh what was “Brussels” and “Berlin ” disappointed in the Greek population.
      But their biggest strength could save them. The ECB!!
      In a far history invented to guard the Euro, now was blocking money to Greek banks!!
      Completely illegal action towards it`s own EU treaty rules, didn`t provide the Greek banks ECB support.
      Yes, the Greek banks could only receive funds if they were “okay”.
      But they were okay ….according to the investigator……..the ECB.

      Finally……….the EU should bring us economical and social grow with the euro.
      Independend economics already call the last 10 years of EU the lost decade.
      That`s not because of grow, but because of social and economical trouble.
      And with it`s currently course we`ll keep it.

      You can take the EU, I`ll take back the EG and my own currency

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      the requirement that the banks are “ok” (have sufficient capital) is rather universal in all economies. Now the question is what kind of capital is considered ok. In this case the toxic assets were Greek government bonds that the financial markets consider of rather little value.

      I don’t know the exact rules ECB operates under but it seems a rather normal behavior by a responsible financial agent…

    • avatar

      @Hans van Veen

      There’s not a single sensible thing in your comment.

      The people blocking money to Greece is not the ECB but national governments. It’s precisely YOUR attitude of the me-me-me that’s keeping help from Greece.

      The policy towards Greece has precisely Z.E.R.O to do with “Brussels” or “the EU” – it is based on individual national governments refusing further payments. And they do so not the least because their national electorates don’t support it. Which is why the whole talk about democracy by people such as you is a hypocritical lie. “Democracy” for you is only for people who agree with you. You are projecting your own antidemocratic attitude onto others. The Greek have the right to vote for anything, the Germans, Finns, etc. have no right to say they don’t want to continue on this road, they are, in fact, not allowed to do anything but dance to the fiddle of you and those you like.

      And I suggest you read the EG/EC treaties – they always declared further integration the goal of the community.

    • avatar

      Well said, O.H. People come here repeating the same illiterate, non-sensical things thinking that the more times and the more people are going to repeat it, the more credibility it is going to gain…

    • avatar

      None of the commission or council were elected by the people – being elected is an essential part of the meaning of democracy. You cannot unelect them, you cannot challenge them in any way whatsoever – you cannot infulence who should sit at the top of the lawmaking stack. This is not democracy

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      Governments are never directly elected (although sometimes directly elected president serves as prime minister, as in US). If this is your definition of democracy, non of the European governments are democratic (although parliaments are).

      There are many more top posts that are never elected, e.g. judges, military commanders…

    • avatar
      hans van veen

      @Ott Toomet

      That`s exactly the point I was aiming for.
      The ECB has declared the Greeks banks for safe. But I could find anywhere the ECB`s definition of “safe”. One fact is and was clear the Greek banks were in need of cash.
      Nevertheless the ECB was and is very divided about further assistance to Greece.

    • avatar
      hans van veen

      @ O.H.

      First my apologies to You. I didn`t mean to publish my reaction to You twice.
      As far as I `am informed has the ECB with it’s members internal a lot of trouble with the course to follow.
      Draghi decided his way about Greece ( backed by “Berlin” ) and blocked more more funds
      (source: CNBC news, economical bulletins)
      Not something I made up!!!
      Please explain to me, what Schäuble and Juncker ment with sentences as Lies are allowed about the EU, and We push and push further , because the population doesn`t understand what we do, and there`no need to explain or justify?
      Your sentence: “Democracy” for you is only for people who agree with you. You are projecting your own antidemocratic attitude onto others.

      Democracy was the one of the most important issues in the EC.
      Do You call it democracy when the Greek population says NO by 62% towards an so called aid program which is destroying the Greek economy even more?
      It was an referendum, which democratic outcome has been put aside by the politicians in order to remain in the Euro.
      Check the famous EU treaty articles and see what has happened in the EU since 2002 and name me the articles which hasn`t been violated since signing.

      If a target turns not to be possible like the EU, You must be able to adjust it. Not willing to do that is that called democracy?

      For Your information. I `am an international truckdriver, close to me 60s. Been in Greece already many time with lot`s of friends over there. I have seen the beautifull European continent change from a united EC in strongly divided EU.

    • avatar

      @Hans van Veen:

      “First my apologies to You. I didn`t mean to publish my reaction to You twice.
      As far as I `am informed has the ECB with it’s members internal a lot of trouble with the course to follow.
      Draghi decided his way about Greece ( backed by “Berlin” ) and blocked more more funds
      (source: CNBC news, economical bulletins)
      Not something I made up!!!”

      Maybe not, but certainly poorly informed. Draghi and Berlin, especially German finance minister Schäuble, are pretty much polar opposites.

      I believe you overlooked the fact that the ECB massively increased lending to Greece until a point was riched in which the rules it operates under prohibited it from going any further without the actual terms of the agreement with Greece being met by the other side.

      Please explain to me, what Schäuble and Juncker ment with sentences as Lies are allowed about the EU, and We push and push further , because the population doesn`t understand what we do, and there`no need to explain or justify?”

      I can’t explain anything without proper references. You DO know that it’s very easy to twist statements into something completely different by tearing them out of context?

      “Democracy was the one of the most important issues in the EC.
      Do You call it democracy when the Greek population says NO by 62% towards an so called aid program which is destroying the Greek economy even more?”

      Do you call it democracy when the people of payer countries have to pay and pay and pay and pay and pay and pay and pay and pay without getting any say about the terms and without much effort being made to end this situation?

      “It was an referendum, which democratic outcome has been put aside by the politicians in order to remain in the Euro.”

      No, it hasn’t been put aside. It was just horribly naive. If you need money, now, saying “I don’t agree to the terms” can have either of two consequences – you don’t get any money or you change your mind. Which do you think is preferable?

      “If a target turns not to be possible like the EU, You must be able to adjust it. Not willing to do that is that called democracy?”

      And adjusting it according to the wishes of a small subgroup against the wishes of the rest, is that called “democracy”?

      “For Your information. I `am an international truckdriver, close to me 60s. Been in Greece already many time with lot`s of friends over there. I have seen the beautifull European continent change from a united EC in strongly divided EU”

      And the reason is not the least the spreading of narcissism and a feeling of entitlement.

      Do you know that 25% of the Greek economy are on the grey market, effectively bypassing any and all taxation, fees etc? That’s money missing in the public coffers that others have to pay for, too.

      There’s a lot that can be discussed about the details of the Greek bailout. But first and foremost, some people in Greece have to realize that things simply cannot continue in this fashion, that fundamental changes ARE necessary. What they look like in detail is a different issue, but it’s not conducive for an amicable solution to stubbornly refuse to admit some pretty drastic issues as being a problem.

    • avatar

      OH you really do have a very tenuous grasp on what Democracy is,I seem to recall referendum results being conveniently ignored, and then another referendum carried out because those”so called” elected individuals in Brussels didnt like the answer they got first time around.

    • avatar

      Ericbanner, I don’t have a tenuous grasp of what democracy is, you have a tenuous grasp of the truth. There is nothing factual in your “recollection”. No referendum was ignored. Instead, adjustments were made in the treaties at issue, the people were asked whether these adjustments adressed their concerns and the people voted yes. If anyone has problems with democracy, it is someone like you who will only ever consider those results valid that are to his liking, making out illegitimacy by the fact that the people disagree with him – that’s the road of despotism, not democracy.

    • avatar

      OH ,my recollections are quite factual thanks very much,you remind me of the old joke…..a group of mothers are watching their children in a marching band ,one of the mothers turns to the others and says” look at that,everyone is out of step except my little Johnny” ……OH Thats you,that is….
      I think ,you come on here to annoy people,well good luck with that !

  10. avatar
    Pro Surveyor

    In Romania was an impeachment referendum to dismiss a president who was elected with about 5 million votes.
    EPP decided otherwise (they said it was a coup d’etat) in this case and 7.5 million voters were not sufficient for Basescu’s dismissal

  11. avatar
    Angelos Papantoniou

    Tweest the reality? Referendums are the foundation of democracy. It is so sad that that you are trying to convince people to deny their rights… “you can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the times”

  12. avatar
    Thomas Beavitt

    As we are presently seeing with respect to TTIP – and perhaps saw with the Greek referendum on the Troika’s austerity policies – it is quite impossible for the average citizen to inform him or herself sufficiently to engage with the complexity of what are, nevertheless, extremely important issues. However, this doesn’t imply that referendums are fundamentally undemocratic; rather, it implies that “democracy” is a bogus concept as applied to the present neoliberal socioeconomic reality.

    25/06/2018 Arjen Nijeboer, Campaign Manager at the Dutch pro-referendum organisation Meer Democratie, and a Board Member & Council Member for Democracy International, has responded to this comment.

    25/06/2018 Yves Leterme, former Prime Minister of Belgium (2009-2011), has responded to this comment.

  13. avatar
    Ivan Vikalo

    Referendums are quite healthy to get a feeling of where people stand, but they shouldnt be binding as deciding can be based on misinformation. One example I would give is related to a referendum the Swedish people had in 1958 (or roundabout there) when people voted for to keep driving on the left side (like the Brits) which the gov. decided to not take into account and changed the driving laws which was obviously the right decision in retrospect as any Swede will admit to. So, sometimes, we have to be realistic and functional. Thus, referendums give good indications, but shouldn’t be followed slavishly.

    25/06/2018 Yves Leterme, former Prime Minister of Belgium (2009-2011), has responded to this comment.

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      Are you stupid?, Referendums must be followed all the time otherwise they lose value, we have people in Switzerland who want to ignore some votes or implementthe votes 50/50 just like you, this is not good, because every issue has a opposition, there will always be someone who disagrees, even a result that you dont like must be implemented, this is the definition of democracy.

  14. avatar
    Kossack Nikko

    OF COURSE they undemocratic… see Ireland when they voted on the Lisbon treaty they had to do it again to make they vote correctly. THE EU o IVREICH. THE EU has to be abolished once and for all, it is superfluous in the modern world. Referendum have worked in Switzerland for centuries and WHY not they can work anywhere else?.. IT IS DEMOCRACY at its best. As lincoll said “government by the people for the people of teh people” something totally alien to the EU structure.

    • avatar
      Paul V

      You can get tangled up in the definition of democracy if you want but most voters aren’t well informed enough to vote on such a complex issue with a Yes no answer. Some wanted their country back, some wanted to buy high power vacuum cleaners, some don’t like immigrants much (even if they never met one). They were also fed a pack of lies to help make their minds up for them, mainly by papers owned by millionaire expats who are so far up the establishments arse they could pick it’s nose…and now it turns out a lot of the promises they voted on were complete BS. So is that a great example of democracy in action?

  15. avatar
    Steve Patriarca Here I take Edmund Burke’s dictum about representative democracy and try to show how the Conservatives have betrayed not only the UK but also the Conservative Tradiiton in elevating the views of “Basildon Man” above our elected representatives…. though I do sometimes wonder….“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Burke

  16. avatar
    Aleksandros Ho Megas

    What a ridiculous fascist question!
    Of course that referendum is the best democratic tool we have to date.

    And of course that states and their fascist servants are afraid of the will of the people.

  17. avatar

    Anyone presenting Switzerland as an example for the benefits of direct democracy should declare their attitude to women’s suffrage. Because thanks to Swiss direct democracy, women didn’t have the right to vote until the early 1970s. Anyone selling the Swiss model as having ensured stability for such a long period is declaring that women suffrage is not necessary for a country to be a true democracy, as they take into account the period without women’s suffrage.

    And should we interpret the argument then that the recent instabilities were caused by the fact that women were given the right to vote in Switzerland?

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      Women first had to prove that they can do what men can do, thats when the Swiss decided that they can be given this right, there is noone in Switzerland today who questions womens equality, and this is coming from someone who knows because he is Swiss! To pick and choose one questionable thing in a system and to say look here at womens rights to vote or look at this other thing and say that this discredits the entire system which is basically what youre saying is not fair, I could just as easily say that that the US Congress and British Parliament voting to go to war with Iraq discredits their system, but this is one vote out of many, for you to argue in this way is ignorant and just plain wrong.

    • avatar

      Couldn’t agree more Weber! The EU is so far from a recognised form of a democracy it beggars belief – Switzerland is on the other end of the spectrum democratically – light years ahead of the EU.

  18. avatar

    Referendums can be both. So one has to watch out. But a referendum that is written with good intentions is a powerful democratic tool.

  19. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Referendums can be both. So one has to watch out.
    But a referendum that is written with good intentions is a powerful democratic tool.

  20. avatar
    Paul X

    How can anything that allows the people a chance to express an opinion be undemocratic?

    The lack of democracy comes from how a referendum is presented, usually the question is skewed one way or another

    ….and also whether the result actually has any influence on what is being voted on…….but you need to ask the EU about that one…….

  21. avatar
    Thomas Hou

    I have never heard such a stupid question. Referendum is the people deciding, so by definition democracy.

  22. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    Referenda are like automobiles or nuclear power: an instrument. Can referenda be used by demagogues? Of course they can! But then again, that’s not a problem with the referendum itself: it’s a problem with politicians and voters.

    • avatar

      Well put.

  23. avatar
    Rui Duarte

    It is not surprising that Margaret Thatcher did not like referenda. Many politicians would prefer to only have to face voters every four years; others would even prefer to avoid the hassle of «elections». In Portugal, for example, we have a government in office for well over four years; I suspect that this president would never again call for elections if he could get away with it.

  24. avatar
    Dimitris Kasapakis

    Coming up in “Debating Europe”.
    Are elections fundamentally undemocratic? – Debating Europe
    Try changing the name into something that makes more sense when asking similar questions, something like “Decapitating Europe”.

  25. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    If they held a referendum across Europe and Great Britain to see if people actual want more integration and become part of a United states of Europe I wonder
    how many people would vote ‘yes’ ?

    But then the EU elite already know the answer so will never ask the question.

    • avatar
      Steve P

      very good point

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Irene Constantinou
      And you of course will be the arbitrator of such matters.

  26. avatar
    Toni Muñiz

    Lets see, ask what people think on a subject? yeah undemocratic. Makes total sense. There should be no law passed, on major subjects, that is not by referendum. Let’s start with a referendum on inmigration.

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      Indeed. But let everyone on this planet to vote, including people from Middle-East, Africa, and everywhere else.

      If only insiders have the right to vote about the fate of the others, this is not democracy either, or what?

    • avatar
      Paul X

      @ Ott

      Are you suggesting unless people wanting to move to a country have a vote on the immigration policy for that country it’s undemocratic?

      Lets hold a UK referendum on allowing uncontrolled immigration from Africa to the UK……..population of Africa 1.1 Billion……..population UK 64 million….could be a close run thing eh?

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      Sort of.

      “Democracy” has many meanings, but what I suggest here is more like everyone should have a say about their fate. And those who have more at stake should have a larger “say.” Obviously, I am aware that how big a vote one should have is impossible to determine, so maybe the current system where you have either 1 vote or 0 votes, depending on your membership of certain administrative regions (not necessarily countries), is the only feasible way. But that does not make this kind of decision-making “just” or “fair.” (Don’t want to say “democratic” here.)

      In case of immigration, the decisions obviously matter for many (prospective) migrants, so I feel they should also have an opportunity to influence the decision.

  27. avatar
    Ricardo Fonseca

    OK… with this question we are certainly debating Europe. The Europe of the eurozone, where problems are solved indoors without representation, or the other Europe that could be… the one where no one thinks of considering a referendum undemocratic.

  28. avatar
    Chris Panayis

    First of all, academically speaking, we do not have democracies but oligarchies in Europe (but you can call them republics as well I guess). Two major political parties usually have control over decades, and people cannot simply became high standing members of those parties. Ppl vote in 10 seconds, and then for the next 4-5 years have no political rights or obligations.

  29. avatar
    Rajmund Klonowski

    Referendums are mostly just instruments for demagogues, and as such are ademocratic to say the least. In Europe, we lack true democracies, with strong municipal government on the lowest level. We should reimplement some principles from Medieval republics, such as nemine contradicente, or else we face further ochlocratization of societies.

    • avatar

      Erm – no – plain wrong – referendums are a very good example of a democratic instrument – the antithesis of a politicians wishes.

      Many claimed that because the USSR had a parliament it was democratic – but the real test is can that parliament make and decide on laws, and are the representatives really representative? Do you really believe that system was an example representative democracy?

      On that note there are many similarities between the EU and USSR… an unelected lawmaking executive, and a powerless parliament stuffed full of useful and expensively maintained fialed/corrupt national politicians – Lenins “useful idiots”.

  30. avatar
    Joao Antonio Camoes

    Referendum is the “must” of democracy, no matter what pseudo-democrats are saying and convencing people. One european PM said last week ” it’s time people understands that they do not need opposition parties”…

  31. avatar
    Rado Kazakov

    The sense and the role of the referendum depend on traditions of every society. In countries with big democratic traditions referendums could be very useful and productive to harmonize public opinion and will with the political will and actions of their leaders. At the same time in nondemocratic societies referendums could be used to abuse and force public opinion in the desired by the rulers direction, hiding behind the democratic nature of referendums. From that standpoint Switzerland is a good example of the use of referendums coming hand in hand with its 7 century republican tradition and with its political stability and high standards of living. On the other side is the referendum in Greece recently and its demagogy to push and engage people to vote for the other peoples in Europe to pay for their wellbeing and standard of living. Actually the Greek referendum was a good example of the abuse with public opinion and its ignorance from the governing politicians because they were creating the self-deception among Greeks that they could force European countries and institutions to act only according to Greek people’s interest disregarding the other countries’ and the hole of Europe’s interests. We could say though that the referendum served well one purpose – the reinforcement of political power of Alexis Tsipras on Greek political scene.

  32. avatar
    Rado Kazakov

    The sense and the role of the referendum depend on traditions of every society. In countries with big democratic traditions referendums could be very useful and productive to harmonize public opinion and will with the political will and actions of their leaders. At the same time in nondemocratic societies referendums could be used to abuse and force public opinion in the desired by the rulers direction, hiding behind the democratic nature of referendums. From that standpoint Switzerland is a good example of the use of referendums coming hand in hand with its 7 century republican tradition and with its political stability and high standards of living. On the other side is the referendum in Greece recently and its demagogy to push and engage people to vote for the other peoples in Europe to pay for their wellbeing and standard of living. Actually the Greek referendum was a good example of the abuse with public opinion and its ignorance from the governing politicians because they were creating the self-deception among Greeks that they could force European countries and institutions to act only according to Greek people’s interest disregarding the other countries’ and the hole of Europe’s interests. We could say though that the referendum served well one purpose – the reinforcement of political power of Alexis Tsipras on Greek political scene.

  33. avatar
    Josemanuel Lopesdepinho

    Desculpem, mas por lapso enviei a mensagem sem a terminar.
    Para que é tanto alarido, quando no fim não se chega a lado nenhum, somos novamente enganados

  34. avatar
    Weber Jan

    The Minarett ban was put forward as a example of a majority taking away the rights of a minority, lets see, can muslims have a mosque in Switzerland?YES, can they have a Qoran?YES, can the have a Islamic event on public land?YES with the necessary approvals like everybody else. If someone attacks a muslim because he is muslim will the police step in to protect the muslim victim or will the police ignore it?The Police will move to protect the muslim victim just like any other victim, this is more than Christians can hope for in most muslim countries. Muslims are Free in Switzerland and anybody that claims different is a troublemaker.

    • avatar

      Yeah, everybody who disagrees with you is a troublemaker – that’s the true spirit of democracy. Thanks for disqualifying yourself.

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      Referendums or no referendums, Switzerland is probably far more democratic than any muslim country. But banning minarets still amounts to taking away minority rights.

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      @OH If you had not made any comment it woud not have been missed as your comment had no substance, so yes you are a troublemaker because you are unable to defeat my point yet you answer as if you are strong on some non position that you dont care to share,you disqualify yourself with every ignorant comment you make on this page.

  35. avatar
    Weber Jan

    I am Swiss and it shocks me that you people vote once every 4 years or so and you call this Democracy and Freedom, especially when you take into consideration that you are voting for politicians that make promises to get elected and then never deliver, how can this be Democracy, Democracy is supposed to be the will of the people, I vote on all kinds of things, I voted on a Credit of 15 Million for construction of a new park in Zürich, there used to be gravel there, now there is nice quarz stone,and water fountains for the children and benches,restaurant etc, now people go there and enjoy this place, we voted no on the Football Stadium(pissed of the hooligans), we voted yes for subsidized housing, no for a leftist Initiative demanding that Managers can only earn 12times more than the lowest paid workers, and yes to building schools etc, every Canton has its own votes and Nationally we all vote on the same issues, and to those who say a yes or no vote is to simple for complicated things you seem to forget that most politicians are only knowledgable in one or two fields e.g law, medicine,real estate, Philosophy,History(Lefists?), how is someone who studied law smarter than a normal citizen when the question has to do with construction or how is a leftist philosophy expert smarter than the taxi driver on a question about Taxes, or how about a Real Estate Businesswoman turned poltician voting on Medical things compared to a accountant, you have been conditioned to believe a lie, the lie that politicians are smarter than normal citizens, politicians are not smarter than you, they were never and will never be smarter than you.

    • avatar

      I’m afraid you are the one conditioned to believe a lie, namely the lie that people in representative democracies believe politicians are smarter. And it suggests you are not particularly smart that you believe people abroad are so stupid to believe that. This goes hand in hand with your belief that being smart has anything to do with making good decisions.

      The real estate businesswoman turned politician has the advantage over the accountant who is not a politician that she can afford both to invest time and money to hear experts from every angle of a particular question AND order some academic studies on the issue if she’s still not sure. The accountant has neither the time nor the money to do that. Your belief that medical issues can be decided by “smarts” is a pretty serious danger to the public. Tell me, do you also let your cab driver decide whether you need surgery or not?

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      O.H so you are anti democracy then.Many Motions are not studied by polticians, their party says vote yes and they vote yes, their party says vote no and they vote no, if you would argue like a honest person you would have mentioned this, but youre probably a paid propagandist of the elites or some fool who eats their propaanda and believs it as thruth, you are one of the conditioned people, conditioned to believe the lie that you must give up responsibility and let the politicians decide everything for you like some babysitter, I feel sorry for you and your mother.

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      @oh, one more thing when you answer my comments be sure to actually answer my comments, bring a counter argument with actual substance, proove me wrong, dont try to skew my argument against me, and to us insults, because as you can see you dont have a chance whatsoever,its people like you that need to insult other people that dscredit themselves an just show how weak they are that they cant even come up with some good points, youre just weak.You are here arguing against Democracy and Freedom I am here standing up for Democracy and Freedom, I am on the right side, you are on the side of the Devil.

    • avatar

      Weber – people like O.H. are what Lenin called “Useful Idiots” – either charlatans or fools – which doesn’t really matter. Wholeheartedly agree with what you have written

    • avatar

      DaveRatters, that’s cute, coming from someone who evidently has totalitarian desires. If anyone is a useful idiot, it’s someone believing their own ignorant opinion the standard people who do their homework should abide by.

    • avatar


      It’s cute when someone who hates nothing more than opposition accuses others of being antidemocratic. You are “democratic” in the sense the GDR was “democratic” – a totalitarian whose concept of “freedom” is that everyone has the “freedom” to agree with you.

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      I dont care if you agree with me, we are all people with opinions, but you are not simply making opinions you are using insults of a personal nature in a political debate rather than factual political arguments and this is gutter behaviour and I called you out on it.
      And to make matters worse you really are representing a mistaken position and still have not been able to counter my argument thats afterall why you had to stoop to such a low level using personal insults in the first place.

  36. avatar

    Are referendums fundamentally undemocratic?

    You brought in discussion Thatcher… named “Iron Lady” ( we are unrelated regardless nickname ), wonder why? Of course she’s a non democratic type of leader, same as Merkel. Now, what is the alternative of a referendum, if referendums are not the right answer for some neo conservatives with their hive mentality ? I will tell you what, the “strong leader”decision is THE only decision and everybody should obey or support the consequences otherwise. Instead of going over and accepting it as a undeniable human right, we are debating (wonder why?) in 2015 ( ! ) the right to vote… What’s wrong with you ?

  37. avatar
    Mike Oxlittle

    You might as well have phrased the question ‘Is it wrong to ask the population for their opinion’.

  38. avatar
    Irena Leibovici

    Generally speaking, the questions are unclear, so, at the end, the citizens are not very clear to what they are respponding

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      Im Swiss and I live this model of Democracy everyday so I want to know why you say that the questions are unclear?, give me an example?

    • avatar

      ‘”Generally speaking”
      Irena you are talking rubbish. Have you ever even read a voting document dealing with direct democratic things.
      I have and based on your comment I know you havent. Most things are not general,l but some are and they have to be because the citizen wishes to give the parliament the job of implementing it. What about that is bad?????
      Maybe you prefer no elections.

  39. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    Once again an absurd question!
    But then again, understandable! You are so much afraid of democracy (especially the direct one), just like… dictators and demagogues! ;)

  40. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    No, except one prefers Totalitarianism & Suzerainty- which may be a secrete EC wish & agenda.

    Modern direct democratic tools & processes should be allowed to evolve, made easily accessible, user-friendly and NOT fire walled by “a (live time) & untrustworthy political clique”- to save & protect their butt & their “product”- like the EC & their “ear whisperers”.

    For direct democratic ease one needs full sovereignty to return to all former EU members, devolution of powers, not a centralization and than consensual decision making- NOT as is the case presently. A direct & modern electronic based democracy has a better chance of success by starting bottom up (from single sovereign states) & not directed by rigid & outdated means- EU top down.

    The EU “Citizens Initiatives” or referendum are legally defined by: Article 11, (one million citizens etc…), further “impeded” by THE TREATY ON EUROPEAN UNION Article 24, THE TREATY ON THE FUNCTIONING OF THE EUROPEAN UNION by Article 2, Article 4, Article 10, Article 11 etc. They are made costly, difficult to be utilized by its ~400 mio voters and “understandably” labeled by politicians as popularism, antidemocratic & disruptive! In fact, it was designed to be as difficult as possible to implement in the first instance- to guarantee unobtrusive progress of the global Master’s N.W.O.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      once more you locked me into the EU “sin bin”- unjustly – why?

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      @EU Reform- Proactive

      Apologies, the automatic moderation probably blocked your comment because there were outbound links. We will approve it now.

  41. avatar
    Eugenia Serban

    Madam Thatcher or Sir Atlee are perfectly right. Referendum is an instrument of PURE DEMAGOGY and CHEAP POPULISM.
    usualy used by socialist to fool people that they care about the opinion of the citizens.

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      It was the people who elected Hitler but it was the foolish politiciand n the German Parliament that created the Ermächtigungsgesetz which gave Hitler absolute power to legislate by his pen. I do not believe for one second that the german voters would have given him this power not even at theight of his politicall career.

  42. avatar
    Ott Toomet

    Sometimes you should ask people, sometimes experts. If it is about opinion or preferences, something like “what do you want”, asking public opinion is the right way to go. On the other hand, if the question is “how to get there” then you should rather ask experts.

    Another issue with referendums (and other ways of voting) is voting eligibility. Large problems typically have many stakeholders, and the way we vote–every citizen has one vote and others have none–does not represent well how much each one care about the results. Majority can always outvote the minority even in questions where it is not necessary (like Swiss minarets).

    Finally, majority voting does not necessarily lead to consistent results (called Condorcet’s paradox).

    So, do referendums, but be careful.

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      The Swiss minarett ban was legitimate, Muslims can have Mosques, hand out qurans on the street, they are protected in every way, we Swiss however will not accept Islamic Symbols of power over our country, if you have a problem with this then dont come to Switzerland. Look at the Jihadists bombing London, look at Islamic Terrorists murdering French people, and then you critisize Swiss people for a democratic vote wich sends Isam a clear message of not here, not with us, not in this country.I can saywith cofidence that Musims have all the rights and freedoms in Swtzerland, can a Chistian in a Muslim country say the same?

    • avatar
      Ott Toomet

      The Swiss referendum was legitimate but it still deprived a minority from certain rights. In this sense I would like to say it was “unfair”. I see a potential problem here that a majority got to vote over a question that does not really matter for them but matter much more for the minority.

      Anyway, I have to admit that I don’t know how much Muslims actually care about minarets. If they don’t, then that’s a non-issue.

    • avatar

      @Otto Toomet
      So it is your position that anything and everything that is considered to be part of islam lets say in the origin lands eg Saudi Arabia should also be practiced in Europe?
      Does your European country allow muslims polygamy?NO
      Does your European country allow muslims to controll their wives and female relatives like they do in muslim countries?NO
      Does your European country support the abusing of minorities rights like in Saudi Arabia where Christians cant even build Churches?NO
      How islamophobic of your country lol.
      Joke aside islam can never be allowed full religious freedom because then we would all lose our rights as islam is not a ideology that gives people western style freedom.

  43. avatar
    Graça Carunchinha

    Of course not! Sadly, however, the majority of the people don’t vote in referendums, at least here in Portugal. They prefer that others (the politicians) decide for them… :(

  44. avatar
    Steve Baron - Better Democracy New Zealand

    These comments relate to plebiscites, not citizens initiated referendums, veto referendums or constitutional referendums. The Swiss government, for example, cannot initiate a referendum. Only the people of Switzerland can do that. Plebiscites are the tools of dictators and demagogues.

  45. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    Swiss experience shows it can go both ways. One real problem is how to democratically decide towards sustainability? Berger &Lukmann in the 60s were already clear: humans cognitively are more concerned about the here and now. So referendums do run the risk of under prioritising future generations or societies geographically far away. In the case of Switzerland, they have been keen with both green policies (concern for future gens) yet more populist/nationalistic ones with regard to borders. I guess the key is, as always, education (seems the Swiss know about the environment but could travel more!)

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      Im Swiss explain to me what went both ways, Switzerland is one of the richest countries on the PLANET EARTH, we have not had wars in over 100years, we have great healthcare, good infrastructure, you eastern Eurpeans are flocking to my country becase you know it is a diamond so please again what exactly went both ways, be specific!

  46. avatar
    EU reform- proactive


    Strange, but why don’t you or your “electronic moderator” fail to notice that the face-book link posted by Indonesian Heru Cahyono is being INAPPROPRIATE, totally off topic and seemingly plain communistic self glorifying clap trap!

    I noticed, I object, please remove same & block this “comment” in future & kindly release my comment from your “moderator’s” solitary confinement. What seems the problem?

  47. avatar

    So Mrs Thatcher had actually said something right!

    I don’t think you can apply the same rule to all but the one in Greece was a manipulative tactic that backfired and winded up the country with the worst bail-out deal ever (Yes, I know that aliens are the perpetrators of this tragedy, but…). I don’t think that such tactics could ever work in a mature democracy because ultimately the majority can see the manipulation.

    The one in Ukraine was a scam. The one in Scotland was a comedy. I don’t think it helped Scotland’s image abroad or did much to attract investment.

    • avatar

      Investors and business need stability and the referenda and such shenanigans show exactly that the local government is prepared to turn everything upside down. So, definitely bad for the economy. I think that the less educated members of our society enjoy such exercises in “democracy”.

    • avatar
      Weber Jan

      @Yvetta, so Switzerland is not stable?, Switzerland is not business friendly?, Switzerlands economy is terrible, like Zimbabwe or Somalia, or Yemen?
      Yvetta you are arguing like those african dictators who try to justify why they should be president for life, you are just damn wrong.

    • avatar

      Same here. Hate to say this but I have to agree with her this once! It reduced a very delicate matter into one dumb question. Sadly the same strategy will be used by Cameron who claims to be the apprentice of her.

    • avatar

      Weber Jan, it is difficult to make sense of your own post. It sounds like you are from Africa and are struggling with English. Why are you talking about Switzerland? It is a safe-haven for money launderers and tax-evaders and there is racism there…I am failing to see the connection between what you are alleging. Is Switzerland’s economy bigger than that of the EU then?

    • avatar

      Yvetta you are obviously an anti democratic person pretending to love democracy and freedom. Check you own english before you berate others. You internet big mouth. Switzerland is sureley better off than whatever country you are from.

    • avatar

      SD, not before you take your own advice. And you know you’re not exactly doing a great job of representing Switzerland…

  48. avatar

    Funny thing… Any existing political form other than EPP (Merkel’s Austerity party) is labeled as “extremists”, “marxists”, “fascists”, “nazis”, “populists”, “skeptics”, “corrupted”, “Putin’s”, etc. Any election or referendum that is not won by EPP and their proxies it’s seen as a real threat and disproportionate punished, just to make sure they set examples.

  49. avatar

    Referendums are a lot better than the EU’s unelected mutually appointed oligarchy.

    Votes by the European Council are not democratic so Junckman and Tussle are not democratically elected.

    • avatar

      Since the European Parliament is not democratically elected (see: definition of democracy) the Commission is by definition neither elected nor in any way democratic.

  50. avatar

    Next time on Debating Europe: should governments be allowed to deviate from EU mandated right wing economic policies?

    Neoliberal right wing policies seem to be compulsory and an American style race to the bottom is coming here.

  51. avatar
    catherine benning

    What this question is really asking us, the citizens of the EU is, should democracy and the will of the people be made illegal.

    It’s all to do with TTIP. It appears we are not, from now on, to be legally allowed to vote against the secret deal thats been cooked against us by having a referendum on it. The yanks didn’t like the outcome in the Ukraine referendum in Crimea and don’t want to be under the thumb of ‘democracy’ in its true form. Direct Democracy. That way the Swiss have kept the will of the people to the forefront of their leadership.

    We should have a Europe wide referendum of whether we must go for that method of true democratic rights from now on and lobby, relentlessly, for Direct Democracy on every issue, before any of it can become lawful.

    • avatar

      Love that idea – I suspect it’ll be jack booted into the ground by the system as it is – they would never allow true democracy to flower I am sad to say – wish it was otherwise

  52. avatar

    Sure they are undemocratic. And so are elections.
    We can’t really abolish elections, but what we can do and is being done by some nations like Romania is to strip elected officials and elected bodies like the Parliament of all real power and give it to bureaucrats, preferably to prosecutors, judges, secret service people as well as all sorts of committees which oversee government.
    This way, instead of corrupt politicians we can have corrupt bureaucrats.

  53. avatar

    I’m totally in favour of constant and frequent referendums about all issues of everyday life. They can be included in the elections of every country in the form of a questionnaire. Online voting is not always accurate, since in most cases you can vote multiple times. In the case of the Greek referendum, the target was to be used as a diplomatic solution in the negotiations, which didn’t quite succeed, because we all know the strict policy of Germany towards austerity, which makes Germany wealthier and all other countries desperate, so a possible Eurodivision is not just a dream. I am not saying I want it, I like Europe, but I think it’s inevitable. Also it has caused a massive growth of the far rights in all countries, which won’t be a wise idea, repeating history.

  54. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Your question reads as : “Is asking the people fundamentally undemocratic ?!”

    Seriously ?! lol

  55. avatar
    Nelson GI

    Why as a Catalan I don’t have the same right like scots had? Well, guess the mentality of the Spanish government…

    • avatar

      For those who dont like the result yes. How democratic of them lol.

  56. avatar
    Lamborghini P.

    At times they are only a tool of the demagogy and the fear. But not always.

    • avatar

      People keep repeating that stupid and baseless position over and over and over because they do not understand direct democracy. I guarantee you the politicians and what they do behind closed doors is by far much more corrupt and much more dangerous than anything that the majority of the people could come up with. Remember this it was a representative democracy, a parliament that gave Hitler the ”Ermächtigungs Gesetz” a law that in essence give him the power to do anything that he wanted, in essence the Man became god, in Germany but thanks to the military might and economic power of Germany far beyond the German borders as well and with catastrophic consequences. I highly doubt that if the German people had to decide in a direct democracy ”do we want to give this man Hitler the power to do anything that he wants”,
      I highly doubt that they would have said yes to that. Yes he was democratically elected but you elect people to build roads, you elect people to build hospitals, you elect people to give people jobs, you don’t elect people so they can play god so there is a difference.

  57. avatar
    Jokera Jokerov

    Referendums are constantly ignored by the EU, because they are the will of the people. EU has nothing to do with democracy.

  58. avatar
    Ana Rita Bernardo Leitão

    To listen or not to listen… must we care about what the citizens have to say? ! Wow, we must be really bad just by making such question.

  59. avatar
    Chris Loughrey

    Representative and direct democracies are both actually inherently undemocratic. The natural problem with a direct democracy in a pluralist society is what is known as the ‘tyranny of the majority’ where a majority group can use it’s majority position to suppress the democratic rights of a minority group, such as the 2009 Swiss referendum which successfully voted in favour of banning Mosque minarets with a 57.5% vote, thus ironically using the purest form of democracy to violate the established principles of democracy, such as legal equality, civil liberty and political freedom.

    In the case of representative democracies the undemocratic nature of such a political organisation is particularly evident in the US where national referendums are often impossible to activate and the political representative often legislate or act on issues contrary to the popular public opinion, such as the congress’ persistent failure to legislating on stricter gun control laws despite numerous polls concluding that the American public overwhelmingly support stricter gun control laws, leaving the country unable to realise what the majority wish for their country because their state representatives overlook the attitudes of their electorate in favour of party or personal motives.

    • avatar
      Oliver H

      Acting against popular opinion can be very much in the popular interest. The very purpose of representative democracy is that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made. That may not be the case in the case of gun control, but there are sundry other examples.

      You claim that representative and direct democracies were “inherently undemocratic”, but fail to suggest a solution, or even what you would consider democratic, as your position seems to be intrinsically contradictive.

    • avatar

      Chris let’s get one thing clear I know and I’m pretty sure you know as well that the Muslims will never be able to practice Islam as they in eg Saudi Arabia. Because if they did this would mean that all of us who are not Muslims and do not aspouse to live according to islamoc laws and practices the gays, some of the women who wish to have a western-style of Freedom, minorities we would all lose our rights and you know this very well so the minarett ban was actually forward thinking. The french have butka bans and they did that with representative democracy. Trump wants to ban muslims all together and thats representatove democracy. You cannot take 1 action of a system that you dont like and use that to say the system is bad.

  60. avatar
    vanessa nwadiora

    is referendum beneficial to democracy

  61. avatar
    Matej Zaggy Zagorc

    Referendums are a joke. It gives people the idea that they are making a difference, which is rarely the case. It’s one of the most expensive ways to make decisions and people usually voting are badly informed about what they are voting for, as seen many times. It is not the peoples decision most of the time

  62. avatar
    Rosy Forlenza

    did the Boaty McBoat Face debacle not send a warning shot across the bow? If there is to be a referendum then it needs to come with a clear idea of what it means to stay(EU good and bad), and what the plan to go is and its immediate and short term impact (challenges vs any gains).

  63. avatar
    Sebastien Chopin

    Referenda are rubbish for the simple reason that whatever the subject… people just vote against the government… and its the same in every country… nice spelling by the way

  64. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Only in the minds of EU fanatics could asking the people be considered to be undemocratic.

    Vive La Liberte !

  65. avatar
    Jaime Oliveira

    Well we should ask ignorant (and often selfish) people about fishing policies, agriculture, resource distribution, international relations, … Democracy, right?

  66. avatar
    Manos Foukarakis

    Referendum is the heart of democrasy when democrasy was born…for modern* democrasy…well thats a debate…

  67. avatar
    Любомир Иванчев

    Referendums aren’t a democratic tool in their nature, but a tool of demagogy and ochlocracy. (
    We already have democratically elected officials who are empowered by the law to make educated, proffesional decisions. They also need to own the responsibility for their actions and referendums allow them to easily run away from this responsibility by blaming “the voice of the people”. The only people they should be allowed to consult are proffessional experts, who have the needed knowledge and experience to enable them to make decisions.

  68. avatar
    Andrea Scacchi

    Someone call the asylum! The writer of the article is gone insane..
    “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”

  69. avatar
    Andrea Scacchi

    I have a suggestion even voting is useless. Avoid us the weight of decision. Democracy is overrated…
    Oh what? In europe is already like that. Thank god. I hate voting, it makes my brain hurt. Duh!

  70. avatar
    José Bessa da Silva

    The only fundamentally undemocratic thing in question is how the EU tries so desperatly to ignore referendums or turn them into their favor.

  71. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    If anyone does not like the democratic decision of the British people there are flights to Euro-lala-land every 10 minutes…

    Good look getting a job when you arrive.

  72. avatar
    Luchian Mdm

    Do you TYRANTS even remember what the word democratic means ? How can you even ask if the “Will of the people”(result of the referendum) is in agreement with the ” Will of the people” – political system called democracy ? The fact you even ask this questions shows how totally out of any touch with democracy the will of the clowns from Brussel you represent has become.

  73. avatar
    Solea Razvan Adrian

    Before any referendum it should be made so that everyone really understand the subject of the matter. Otherwise it becomes a tool for manipulation.

  74. avatar
    Pavel Lampa

    well the half of UK citizens who were againts can leave and go to Germany. Plenty of jobs, similar language, everyone speeks English….

  75. avatar
    Richard Lutz

    Any mechanism that allows the mob to do what it likes is a form of mob rule and not a legitimate form of democracy. Only guided democracies like the one in Cuba which protects the rights of the weak are legitimate.

  76. avatar

    Sorry to say that without referendums and with arrogant , unaccountable politicians there is no real democracy in Europe and that is why more and more people especially the rich are leaving many countries across the world .
    Democracy mean that the majority have the say . We have to vote for someone who represents us in parliament , yet all the people elected then represent political parties , which it is very clear today that people do not want , and that without change there will be major unrest across the developed world , with all its consequences on the financial and business sectors. Without massive political change , the planet will descend into instability , and added to by climate change and the problems of food and water .

  77. avatar

    Wasn’t the brexit referendum undemocratic in that it undermined the original vote to be in the EU? What am I missing, someone explain!

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