Sunday, 26 June 2016

Brexit and direct democracy: the double referendum option

Now that a petition to hold a new referendum has surpassed the 3 million signatures I need to discuss this option which I left out in my previous post.

I left it out because it does not solve the basic problem of direct democracy.

While a simple majority (even by one vote) is reasonable for easily reversible decisions, like the election of a parliament for a legislative period of four or five years, it should not be enough for decade lasting decisions. Typically, constitutions and major international treaties should last for several decades and not be subject to frequent changes because of the huge costs in terms of economic and political stability. Therefore, a repeat referendum is not a solution to heal a divided electorate. Only the requirement of a qualified majority solves the problem, because it guarantees a minimum of stability by avoiding the consequences of frequent reversals of opinion.

This said, I do not believe that such qualified majority needs to be extreme. Two thirds or three quarters majorities are clearly anti-democratic. However, majorities of 10 to 15% are a reasonable compromise between the rule by majority and the need to protect the minorities.

Obviously, these rules should be constitutional.

The case of the UK is peculiar in this regard because it does not have a written constitution. So, can a sitting parliament, the House of Lords or a high court cancel (or make non-mandatory) last week’s referendum? I do not know enough about the British rules, but, given the risk of UK disintegration, they should at least require a new election to decide on the future relationship with Europe; even if that means asking the former EU partners for more patience.

No comments:

Post a Comment