'La democracia directa está muy bien para las cosas que no tienen importancia, como el Festival de Eurovisión. Pero con ella no hay manera de dirigir un país, y mucho menos un continente'
THE ECONOMIST.- Referendum fever poses several problems. For a start, it makes it increasingly hard to agree on transnational policies. Treaties are generally signed by governments and then ratified by legislatures. Adding referendums to the mix hugely complicates matters. “It’s almost impossible now to see how 28 states would ratify an EU reform treaty,” says Stefan Lehne of Carnegie Europe, a think-tank. Minorities of voters in smaller countries may be able to stymie Europe-wide policies; just 32% of Dutch voters took part in the Ukraine referendum. This could cripple the European project. “Europe cannot exist as a union of referendums,” says Ivan Krastev, head of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, a Bulgarian think-tank.Leer más...
Referendums can lead to incoherent policies. Voters looking at issues in isolation may approve measures that conflict with each other, such as voting for higher spending and big tax cuts, as they often have in California. Direct democracy cannot magically abolish maths.
Liberals cheered when an Irish plebiscite legalised gay marriage in 2015. But some argue that human rights should not be subject to majority vote. What a majority gives, it can also take away.
The idea that referendums foster engagement is questionable, too. As they have proliferated, the median turnout for nationwide referendums has fallen from 71% in the early 1990s to 41% in the past few years (see chart). Of eight referendums in Slovakia since 1994, only one on EU membership had a turnout higher than the threshold of 50% required for the result to be valid. Such apathy can be costly. In Italy a referendum in April pushed by local governments (and opposed by Matteo Renzi, the prime minister), on whether or not offshore oil rigs should continue operating, did not reach the 50% turnout required—but still cost around €300m ($340m).