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REFERENDA THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST John Stuart Mill defines pure democracy as the government of the whole people by the whole people exclusively represented ref 1 Whether or not this is true of democratic political systems established today is debatable However it cannot be denied that there are certain forms of decision making practised in modern democratic states which suggest that the idea of government can be brought closer to the electorate These are labelled Direct forms of democracy or Direct Democracy Referenda has come to be classified under this heading and is now an integral part of the decision making process in most democracies It is most commonly used in Switzerland where the subject matter of the referenda is not simply limited to issues of major significance but also includes the more fundamental aspects of political decision making unlike most other democratic states Despite referenda being widely used throughout democratic countries its usage is still the topic of many debates Arguments arise over the legitimacy and place it has in political systems where politicians are elected to represent the electorate rather than the electorate representing themselves This relates to the original questioning of democracy by philosophers and politicians such as Plato and John Stuart Mill The public have a right to make decisions affecting them yet there is debate over whether or not the electorate are capable of handling decision-making power competently and without abusing it Thus the question stands Is referenda complimentary to democracy or is it a violation of it A referendum can address all issues concerning the law and government of a country It is based on the popular will of the people so as modern democracy is based on the popular vote that is the will of the majority the idea of referenda appears to fit reasonably into the decision making process However as John Stuart Mill believed the public can be ignorant towards not only
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