Referendum Provisions and Use in 28 Countries

  • Saskia Hollander


This chapter provides a comparison of referendum practices in 28 European countries. It assesses which types of referendum and associated provisions are provided for, and provides an overview of the number and types of referendum(s) held between 1950 and 2017. The chapter shows that referendums triggered by representative bodies are most commonly provided for and used. While politicians can trigger a national referendum in all 23 countries where the constitution contains provisions for its use, citizens can currently only do so in ten, mainly Central and Eastern, EU countries. Moreover, when outlier cases Italy and Ireland are excluded, almost all optional referendums in the ‘old’ EU members were triggered by a political majority. Hence, these observations counterbalance the claim of a direct participatory shift.


Mandatory referendums Legislative majority referendums Presidential referendums Legislative minority referendums Citizen-initiated referendums Cross-country variation 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saskia Hollander
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Director of Knowledge Management, The BrokerDen HaagThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Research fellow, Department of Public Administration and Political ScienceRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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