9 demerits of direct democratic devices like Referendum, Plebiscite and Recall

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Although direct democratic devices are very useful yet they are not without defects. Some of them may be discussed as follows:

Demerits:

1. Lowers the prestige of the legislators:

These devices lower the prestige and dignity of the legislators because the final decision lies with the people. The legislature does not get an opportunity to pursue its policy full v. The members of a legislature are reduced to the position of counselors.

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They are left only with the work of drafting Bills. As Finer says, “The government is seriously embarrassed and confused.” Its legislative work is interrupted. In case of coalition governments, instabil­ity will be heightened. “The referendum has no pacifying effect; on the contrary, it inflames antagonism by reminding men of their existence.”

2. Appeal from knowledge to ignorance:

The ordinary voters are not competent to form a serious and correct opinion regarding the legislative measures placed before them.

There seems to be no sense in asking a cowherd or a stable boy to cast his vote in favour of or against a measure recommending nationalization of banking and credit about which he knows nothing.

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This fact led Esmein to declare that “direct democracy simply involves an appeal from knowledge to ignorance and from responsibility to irresponsibility.”

3. Unsuitable in bit States:

The system of direct democracy might have been possible and desirable in small Greek and Roman city-states of ancient times when the population of a state used to be very small and when life of the people was very simple.

The system is not suited to requirements of modern states. the large size of the electorate makes them difficult on financial and administrative grounds.

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4. No room for Amendments:

The system does not leave any room for amendments because a Bill is placed before the people as a single whole which must be accepted or rejected in the form in which it.

5. Checks Progressive Legislation:

Direct legislation has not been responsible for progressive legislation. The general masses have proved to be conservative in temperament and the devices of direct legislation have simply rallied the conservative forces in society.

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6. Brings Political Parties in the Forefront:

The referendum has in practice shown that voting in referendum is not different from voting in the general elections. The electorate gets divided on party affiliation basis rather than on the basis of merits of the bills under review.

7. Serves as a set back to parliamentary democracy:

Referen­dum threatens the prestige of parliament. It is used as an argument against parliamentary system that Parliaments are bodies of talkers and self- seeking politicians, that they have no courage nor ability to deal with national interests; it is frustrated because of multiple parties and coalition, as was done in Germany.

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8. No educative value:

Referendum does not prove educative either except so far as the matter is discussed in the press and on the platform. But appeal is made more to emotion and prejudice than to reason as happens in a general election.

9. Encourages agitation approach:

It provides an opportunity to the discontented parties and groups to start agitations, not always for something just, but out of malice, spite, and revenge for having suffered defeat at the general elections.

Finer has well summed up the position when he says, “It improves nothing : neither the laws nor the people. It disturbs without providing solutions.

It is an appeal from a court which has the makings and some of the equipment of a wise legislature, to all the crudities of a majority vote.”

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