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Q. Pros and cons of referendum: In the backdrop of recent referendum on Brexit, discuss the advantageous and disadvantageous of referendum.
Jul 11, 2016 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Issues-

Recently referendum was held in United Kingdom on whether to remain a member of the European Union or to leave and majority of UK people are voted for leaving the European Union. After result many commentators and politicians across the world felt that sensitive decisions like Brexit should not be decided through referendum instead it should be decided by elected government.

Referendum-

A referendum is the term given to a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to vote on a particular proposal. Referendums may be held in relation to particular circumstances (ex. to amend constitution) or in relation to particular political issues (ex. Brexit) but are in general held in relation to issues of major political significance. Referendum which is refereed as direct democracy has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages-

  • In the context of increasing voter apathy and disenchantment with traditional forms of democracy, referendum can help to re-engage voters with politics and democracy.
  • Referendum can be used to resolve political problems, particularly for incumbent governments, where a governing party is divided over an issue, for example Brexit.
  • For any transcendental changes in governance, referendum may serve as specific popular mandate for example drastic changes in constitution.

Disadvantages-

  • Referendum weakens representative democracy by undermining the role and importance of elected representatives.
  • Referendums are sometimes seen as a means available to elected representatives to avoid having to take an unpopular position on a controversial issue. It can be used as a political tool to suit the needs of the governing party rather than the interests of democracy.
  • Voters may not always have the capacity or information to make informed decisions about the issue at stake, and instead may make ill-informed decisions based on partial knowledge or on the basis of unrelated factors such as the state of the economy.
  • This trend may be exacerbated in the case of referendums on complex issues such as constitutional change or international treaties, with which voters are likely to be unfamiliar.

Conclusion-

Referendum confers the power of direct democracy to citizens to decide on a various matters and prima facie it looks good. But many times due to lack of information or on emotional issues results of referendum might be disastrous. That is precisely why a democracy installs institutions, directly elected (Ex. parliament), and appointed (Ex. the judiciary) to take rational decisions on important issues. Hence Referendum is not a good solution and can be used only as a solution to last resort.


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