Volume 18 (2012) / Issue 4
The proliferation in the use of referendums in processes of accession to and ratification of European Union treaties is part of a growing trend towards direct democracy in constitutional decision-making. This article addresses the challenge which this important and under-theorized feature of contemporary politics poses for constitutionalism, many of the empirical and indeed normative precepts of which are built upon the implicit presupposition of an exclusively representative model of government and law-making. An important question, made more pressing by this development, is whether constitutional referendums can be truly democratic as an instrument of republican government. The article seeks to explore how referendums on EU integration complicate the democratic issue. This occurs partly by the ways in which referendums cast light on the democratic defects of the EU constitution-making process itself and partly by how they raise the thorny issue of the demos by bringing back the people in direct and vernacular contributions to what is otherwise supposed to be a post-national constitution-building project.
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