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 Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy

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PostSubject: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 8:46 pm

This is a question that seems to come up quite a bit. What is the relative legitimacy of referendums, representatives, demonstrations, and lobbying? Are lobbying and demonstrating equivalent? Are referendums the only true form of democracy - and if they are, are the Germans right to make them illegal - or are the Germans right, that referendums are hostages to demagoguery?
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 9:05 pm

ibis wrote:
or are the Germans right, that referendums are hostages to demagoguery?

Yes.
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 9:07 pm

I think that might need about six threads Ibis. Very Happy I would assume that all of them are legitimate, and that their legitimacy is not relative.

Demonstrating is by definition public and lobbying is normally not. Both of them can breach legality if not conducted within the terms of the law. The lack of transparency about lobbying can be IMHO a serious problem.

Referenda, if what we see going on in Burma today with people frogmarched to the polls under armed guard was applied, can be illegitimate. The extent to which they are meaningful depends on conduct of the referendum, the extent to which the question makes any sense and the quality of information people have to inform their vote.
Electoral democracy works in so far as there are real alternatives. It has its limits but is a lot more attractive to me than dictatorship. I think the future need is for more transparency about lobbying, more participatory democracy and computerised voting on far more matters of detail elections.
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 9:11 pm

seinfeld wrote:
ibis wrote:
or are the Germans right, that referendums are hostages to demagoguery?

Yes.

Interesting then that there are about 200 local referenda in Germany each year.
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 9:19 pm

Kate P wrote:
seinfeld wrote:
ibis wrote:
or are the Germans right, that referendums are hostages to demagoguery?

Yes.

Interesting then that there are about 200 local referenda in Germany each year.

Yes - they are allowed at the state level, but not the national level, for historical reasons. My own view is that they are an entirely appropriate mechanism within smaller polities (like Ireland, or the Swiss cantons), but a potential disaster at any level above that.
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 9:40 pm

Quote :
but a potential disaster at any level above that.

Why?
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 9:49 pm

ibis wrote:
This is a question that seems to come up quite a bit. What is the relative legitimacy of referendums, representatives, demonstrations, and lobbying? Are lobbying and demonstrating equivalent? Are referendums the only true form of democracy - and if they are, are the Germans right to make them illegal - or are the Germans right, that referendums are hostages to demagoguery?

This is a great thread ibis.

I don't think that lobbying and demonstrating are equivalent but demonstrations are undoubtedly an aspect of lobbying, often a very ineffective one. Personally I believe that lobbying and the right to lobby is a fundamental aspect of democracy, certainly as important as referendums and the right to demonstrate.
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 10:36 pm

Kate P wrote:
Quote :
but a potential disaster at any level above that.

Why?

Hasn't Burma just held a referendum, which has created a constitutional provision that prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from ever holding office and which reserves 25% of the seats in the national parliement for military personnel?
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 10:42 pm

seinfeld wrote:
Kate P wrote:
Quote :
but a potential disaster at any level above that.

Why?

Hasn't Burma just held a referendum, which has created a constitutional provision that prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from ever holding office and which reserves 25% of the seats in the national parliement for military personnel?

You can contaminate any democratic process if armed men usher the voters to the ballot box, as was shown on Channel 4 news tonight.
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 10:43 pm

cactus flower wrote:
seinfeld wrote:
Kate P wrote:
Quote :
but a potential disaster at any level above that.

Why?

Hasn't Burma just held a referendum, which has created a constitutional provision that prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from ever holding office and which reserves 25% of the seats in the national parliement for military personnel?

You can contaminate any democratic process if armed men usher the voters to the ballot box, as was shown on Channel 4 news tonight.

Thats the whole point.

Referenda provide a means for demagogues and dictators to legitimise their immoral/illegal acts.
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PostSubject: Re: Demonstrations, Referenda, Democracy   Sat May 10, 2008 11:00 pm

I think without even going as far as intimidation at the polling booths, as debate becomes wider, and one needs to appeal to ever more disparate groups, the debate reduces further and further to the level of the emotive and simplistic.
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