Popular/Citizen-Initiated Referendum

Popular/Citizen-Initiated Referendum (PCR)

A direct democracy procedure and a political right that allows a specified number of citiens to initiate a referendum and let the whole electorate decide whether, for example, a particular law should be enacted or repealed.

This procedure acts as a corrective to parliamentary decision-making in representative democracies and as a check on parliament and the government. The „people“ or demos (i.e. all those with the right to vote) has the right to decide in retrospect on decisions made by the legislature. Whereas the popular initiative works like a gas pedal, the popular referendum gives people the possibility to step on the brakes. In practice, popular referendums (like popular initiatives) are a means to synchronize the citizens’ view with the politicians’ view.


Designates a certain type of popular vote procedure (see –>  Typology). The referendum is a direct democracy procedure which includes a popular vote on an issue (ballot proposal) such as, for example, a constitutional amendment or a bill; the voters have the right to either accept or reject the ballot proposal.

The procedure is triggered either by law (–> obligatory referendum) or by a specified number of citizens (–> popular referendum). Note: a popular vote procedure, which is triggered and controlled exclusively by the authorities, is not a referendum but a plebiscite.

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