The best example we have of Direct Democracy working in a developed society is Switzerland. The Swiss have been using direct democracy at every level of government for about 160 years. They have combined it with representative government to develop a successful and cohesive society. While other nations have split along ethnic and religious lines the Swiss have managed to accommodate a people who speak three major languages (German, French and Italian), and a fairly even split between Catholicism and Protestantism.
CfD bases its proposals on the Swiss model, the American versions often being flawed.
To be effective direct democracy systems need to adhere to the following requirements.
All proposals must comply with human rights and equality legislation.
A significant number of signatures must be obtained within a set time period.
These signatures should not be collected via the internet.
A time frame of around eighteen months should be set to allow opponents of the proposal time to make their case.
Advice should be available to proposers to ensure their legislation is properly constructed.
Each initiative should deal with only one subject.
Spending limits should be set on proposal campaigns.
Initiative campaigns must reveal the sources of their funding.
Initiatives should not be allowed to use television or radio advertising.
Government should be allowed to put counter proposals.
The people must have the right to stop government legislation before it comes into force through an initiative process.
In Switzerland any seven voters can submit a request for a referendum. Over the next eighteen months they then have to collect the signatures of 100,000 voters and if they succeed a referendum is held on their proposal. The Swiss people can also use referendums to reject any law they do not approve of, and any constitutional change must go to the people for approval.
Direct democracy does limit the power of representative government. We don't campaign against representative government which we see as an important part of the political process, but we believe the people should be sovereign, in theory and in practice.
If the system is set up well referendums could be rare. The parties will compete to support good ideas and put them through themselves. If Parliamentarians oppose good suggestions they will lose support at elections, something they cannot afford to do.
'Parliamentary sovereignty' will end, and we make no apologies for this. In the past the ideologies and enthusiasms of our representatives have often caused us considerable disruption and expense. By giving people more say in how they are governed we make our representatives more accountable, and for many politicians this will offer new and exciting opportunities. They will be able to develop new policies and projects hand in hand with their constituents and colleagues, as they too can use these new processes.
There have been several articles in newspapers about direct democracy. To read them please click on the links below. The links open separate windows.