Normative theory of direct democracy still rests basically on popular sovereignty, freedom, and political equality, with Jean-Jacques Rousseau as the outstanding theorist of unanimous consent of the people for a free republican constitution and subsequent forms of participation.
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One can also assume that basic types or forms of direct-democratic procedures may result in different consequences.
Direct democracy comes in a variety of institutional forms, with the common feature of procedures focusing on popular votes on political issues.
Their main forms can be distinguished by the actors who start the procedure.
Mandatory referenda have to be held when a referendum vote is required by law (e.g., a constitution) for deciding a specific subject.The term is also sometimes used for the practice of electing representatives in a direct vote rather than indirectly through an electing body, such as the electoral college, and for the recall of elected officeholders.Direct democracy may be understood as a full-scale system of political institutions, but in modern times it most often consists of specific decision-making institutions within a broader system of representative democracy.For instance, as political scientist George Tsebelis notes, referendum voters can be seen as an additional veto player.Some authors contend that direct democracy may undermine representative democracy, while others focus on the deliberative functions for a democratic public sphere and the capacity for integrating citizens in the democratic process.Citizens’ initiatives that are supported by a required number of signatures allow the electorate to vote on political measures proposed by a group, on bills approved by a legislature but not yet in force, or on existing laws (citizen-demanded referenda).A popular vote may be binding according to the simple or specific majority or turnout requirements for a valid vote or may be defined as only consultative or advisory.Some jurisdictions provide an agenda initiative that allows citizens with the support of a minimum number of signatures to place a particular issue on the agenda of a government or legislative authority.Such proposals have to be considered by the authority addressed, but they do not lead to a referendum vote.Direct democracy, also called pure democracy, forms of direct participation of citizens in democratic decision making, in contrast to indirect or representative democracy.Direct democracies may operate through an assembly of citizens or by means of referenda and initiatives in which citizens vote on issues instead of for candidates or parties.