Between holding elections and a referendum

26/06/2016 (Al Arabiya – UAE by Abdulrahman al-Rashed*): The difference between voting for an individual, such as a president, and holding a referendum is that the latter gives citizens the right to vote on major issues. Most democracies do not hold referendums because they think the public is not fully aware of the details and is thus not supposed to take decisions. This is why indirect democracies exist, i.e. people choose their leaders who decide what’s best on their behalf. When the rivals of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher confronted her and demanded her to take the people’s opinion regarding tax law – which stirred controversy and ignited protests – she angrily responded that people only vote once and not every day. This is the case in most countries as they rarely hold referendums unless in cases such as approving a new constitution. Germany only did it twice and so did Britain. In Switzerland, it’s enough for 50,000 people to sign a petition to demand holding a popular vote or a referendum and the parliament will be obliged to hold either within three months…

* Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel.



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