“Direct democracy in comparative politics” – 18 January 2024


Direct democracy is defined as a set of procedures that allow voters to initiate and veto legislation. These procedures have been often conceptualized as populist-inspired institutions that piggyback on representative systems. Contrary to this view, my research analyzes how institutions work when direct democracy is placed at the core of political systems, i.e. when constitutions are directly revised by voters. It demonstrates that, under this condition, the balance of powers is fundamentally different from representative systems. This institutional setting reinforces the liberal properties of a democracy, such as the sharing of powers and the independence of checks and balances. Based on the veto player theory, it can however be argued that the existence of competitive constitutional agenda setters and the median voter as veto player produce a political regime that is more protected from illiberal forms of democracy than are presidential and parliamentary systems.

Raul Magni-Berton is Professor in Political Science at ESPOL, Université catholique de Lille.