An Old but Still Fashionable Instrument

This Article shows that, far from being a defunct political tool, the plebiscite is still a very “fashionable” instrument that can be found not only in authoritarian regimes, but also in democratic countries. To make this case, this Article relies on comparative constitutional history, which is essential to clarify a current dispute—that is, the distinction between the plebiscite and other forms of popular participation, notably the referendum. While many constitutions shy away from using the term plebiscite, this analysis shows that numerous modern consultations may really be categorized as plebiscites. Its formal absence from legal texts does not mean that the plebiscite no longer exists; rather, it continues to play a prominent role in today’s societies even if called by a different name.

The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.