The Direct-Democracy-Navigator World Fact-Check (II)

In the following article we will publish the second part of the empirical results of the Navigator World Fact-Check, dealing with the instruments of Citizen Initiatives (+ Authorities Counter Proposals) - PCI and PCI+, Citizen Initiated Referendums (+ Counter Proposals) - PCR and PCR+, as well as Obligatory Referendums - LOR.

PCI/PCI+ - initiatives by the people

The rule and one extraordinary exception

At least 25 countries - almost 21% of democracies – provide these instruments at national level. In 18 of these states, national referendums were conducted during the past 20 years.

No corresponding votes were held in: Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Philippines.

Excluding the special cases of the Marshall Islands - where the right of initiative is limited on the issue of calling a Constituent Assembly, - Mexico and Kenya (that have known instruments for about three years), the question remains why no referendum was held in the remaining four states.


The compilation of the number of referendums shows a significant distance between Switzerland and the 'second placed' San Marino. The Swiss rules are characterized by the low minimum of gathered signatures for the submission of national initiatives, combined with a long time frame for their collection. It seems nonetheless questionable that this should be the only factor responsible for the very high number of ballots.

The Topics (1)

  • Slovakia

2015 Marriage between man and woman; Prohibition of adoption for same-sex couples; Sexual education only with the consent of the parents - 2010 Abolition of licensing fees for radio and television; Limiting parliamentary immunity; Reduction of seats in the parliament; Maximum prices for office vehicles; Elections via internet; No right of reply for incumbents - 2004 Early general elections - 2000 Early general elections - 1998 No privatization of strategic enterprises

  • Hungary

2008 No fees for in-patient treatment in hospitals; No charges for out-patient treatment; No tuition fee for public higher education; - 2004 No privatization of health institutions; Dual citizenship for Hungary citizens abroad

  • Micronesia

1999 Individual states have only natural treasures including the sea at their disposal; 70% of tax revenues for the states; Distribution of the revenue from the special economic zone; - 1997 80% of tax revenues for the states

  • Taiwan

2008 Joining the United Nations under the name "Taiwan"; Joining international organizations under any name; Restitution of illegal assets of the Kuomintang government; Fight against corruption in the government

  • New Zealand

2013 Partial privatization of some state-owned enterprises; - 2009 Corporal punishment of children as a criminal offense; - 1999 Reduction of the Parliament from 120 to 99 seats; Tougher penalties for violent criminals

  • Latvia

2012 Russian as a second official language; 2008 Dissolution of Parliament by popular initiative; Temporary increase of the state pensions

  • Uruguay

2014 Criminal responsibility age of 16 years; - 2009 Repealing the act on the waiver of prosecution; - 2004 Water supply state-owned only

  • Lithuania

2014 Constitutional reform; - 1996 Compensation for lost bank deposits up to 1990

  • Bulgaria

2013 Construction of a new nuclear power plant

  • Croatia

2013 Marriage only for man and woman

  • Macedonia

2004 Local administration according to the laws of 1996

  • Georgia

2003 Reduction of the parliament size from 235 to 150 seats

  • Peru

2010 Refund of money of the FONAVI Fund


(1) Without the Swiss cases and those in smaller (city-/island-)states,

Facultative referendums (PCR/PCR +)

The special case among the exceptions

Far fewer countries offer the possibility of facultative referendums at national level than countries provide citizen initiatives. There is a total of 14 states, less than 10% of all democracies. Three of these countries limit this right to special cases: Bolivia, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. Accordingly, in these states no facultative referendums were held during the examined period. Also, no facultative referendums were further held in Albania, Colombia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Two states dominate the number of votes by means of PCR/PCR +-instruments: about 50% were held in Switzerland, almost 30% in Italy.

The following table shows the frequency of votes on the basis of facultative referendums (instruments labeled PCR/PCR+). During the past 20 years, 98 such referendums were conducted.


The topics

  • Italy

2011Suspension of the partial privatization of the water supply; Lifting privatized gains from the water supply; Repeal of the planning and the construction of new nuclear power plants; Lifting the requirement of the holder of the highest public offices to appear in court; - 2009 Removing list connections in the election of the Chamber of Deputies; Removing list connections in the election of the Senate; Lifting of multiple candidacies in the election of the Chamber of Deputies; - 2006 Constitutional reform; - 2005 Lifting the restriction of research on embryos; Lifting restrictions of embryo implantations and the recognition of the embryo as involved party; Lifting of the ban of heterologous insemination; - 2003 Lifting the limitation of protection against unfair dismissal on companies with more than 15 employees; Lifting the requirement for landlords to put up with right of way for power lines; - 2000 Abolition of refund of election and voting campaign expenses; Repeal of the electoral code to elect a quarter of the House of Representatives according the proportional representation system; Abolition of the elections according lists within the Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura; Removal of the possibility of career changing between Charge and Chambers of the Court; Removing the sideline job possibility for civil servants; Lifting the limitation of protection against unfair dismissal on companies with more than 15 employees; Repeal of the automatic payroll deduction for trade unions and professional associations; - 1999 Repeal of the election of a quarter of the House of Representatives according the proportional representation system; - 1997 Removal of the possibility to own the majority of shares at privatized enterprises for the Treasury; Lifting of the restrictions on admission to the civilian service; Cancellation of permission to enter private land during a hunt; Repeal of the automatic promotion of officials; Abolition of the state-run Journalist Association; Abolition of extrajudicial sideline job possibility for judicial officials; Abolition of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

  • Slovenia

2015 Same-sex marriage; - 2014 Document protection and Archives Act; - 2012 Family law; - 2011 Pension and disability insurance act; Act on part-time work

  • Uruguay

2003 Repeal of the law on the abolition of the ANCAP oil monopoly

  • Malta

2015 Spring hunting of birds

  • Netherlands

2016 Association Agreement between the European Union and the Ukraine


(1) A 'mixed instrument': the 'plebiscitary PCR' in Latvia

In Latvia citizens can in principle recall laws by a referendum law. However, this is tied to the previous 'approval' by a minority of the Parliament or the President. In this respect the Latvian scheme is structurally related to the parliamentary minority plebiscite or veto plebiscite. During the past 20 years 4 votes occurred due to this direct democracy instrument.

2007 Removal of changes to the state security law; Annulment of the amendments to the law on state security authority; - 1999 Cancellation of pension reform; - 1998 Repeal of facilitated naturalization

Mandatory referendums (LOR)

70 democracies have the instrument of a mandatory referendum. 165 ballots took place over the last 20 years - but in 26 countries only.

The democratic sovereign was not called to vote in following states: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Belize, Benin, Colombia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Macedonia, France, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Niger, Niue, Norfolk Island, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Spain, St. Lucia, Taiwan, East Timor, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Zambia.

Again, the list is spearheaded by Switzerland.


The topics

In most countries mandatory referendums must be conducted if the parliamentary legislator wants to adopt constitutional amendments or a new Constitution.(1) In some states a referendum is necessary in connection with international agreements or accession to international organizations. The Czech Republic, whose constitution requires a referendum in the event of the accession to the European Union, is a particular example. As the accession has been completed, this requirement (actually) does not apply anymore.


(1) In a few cases, this norm may be replaced by difficult parliamentary hurdles. Partly, the need for a referendum is limited on the change of certain articles of the Constitution.

Overview: Amount of Referendums in Initiative-States (States providing PCI/PCI+ Instrument)