II.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr Elo

1.       Introduction

1.       Referendums may have supporters and detractors but whatever we think of them it is a fact that they are more and more in use in Council of Europe member states. As your Rapporteur, I believe that the Council of Europe, in its role as the guardian of democracy, should take the lead in codifying rules on the holding of referendums and promote models of good practice, to ensure that referendums are used as a supplement to representative democracy and avoid any manipulation.

2.       In this respect, I largely share the opinions expressed by Professor Auer of the University of Geneva, whom I thank most warmly for his research paper which is attached to the present memorandum. As an academic expert in direct democracy, Professor Auer has described in a very balanced manner advantages and risks of the use of referendums, and has indicated safeguards that should be employed when relying on such an instrument.

3.       I shall not duplicate his work but rely on it. I shall, however, expand on a few issues, also in response to an invitation in this sense expressed by some members of the Committee.

16.       Referendums can contribute to reinforcing the democratic legitimacy of political decisions, enhancing the accountability of representative institutions, increasing the openness and transparency of decision-making and stimulating the direct involvement of the electorate in the political process.

17.       To ensure that referendums have such a positive impact on our political systems, it is necessary to set clear rules and limits with which they should comply. The Council of Europe is very well placed to do so, given the substantial input which could be provided by the Venice Commission.

III.       Working document prepared by the Research and Documentation Centre on Direct Democracy - Geneva

4.5.       Curb on development of the legislative process

government reform, met with a crushing defeat. If a referendum can go against the very person who calls for it, is this not proof that in the present context it is frequently the expression of the authentic will of the people?

6.2.       Causes of the development of the referendum in Europe


1 http://c2d.unige.ch.