Event Details

SpeakerLucas Leeman (University of Essex)


Direct democratic institutions allow citizens to directly influence policy decisions. They have the potential to lower the influence of legislative and executive bodies while allowing citizens to do more than periodically elect representatives. As with many other institutions that limit the government’s power, there is a question as to how these institutions come into existence in the first place. The research question of this paper asks: What explains the adoption of direct democratic institutions (DDIs) in representative democracies? I argue that the adoption and extension of direct democracy is fueled by the electoral distortion caused by majoritarian elections. The analysis is carried out on a novel data set of constitutional changes in all Swiss cantons during the 19th century and provides insights as to how and when DDIs are introduced or extended. The results also provide a potential explanation for why these institutions are fairly rare at the national level.