Direct democracy, also called pure democracy, forms of direct participation of citizens in democratic decision making, in contrast to indirect or representative democracy, based on the sovereignty of the people. This can happen in the form of an assembly democracy or by initiative and referendum with ballot voting, with direct voting on issues instead of for candidates or parties. Sometimes the term is also used for electing representatives in a direct vote as opposed to indirect elections (by voting for an electing body, electoral college, etc.) as well as for recalling elected officeholders. Direct democracy may be understood as a full-scale system of political institutions, but in modern times, it means most often specific decision-making institutions in the broader system environment of representative democracy.

Referendums are a clear indicator of direct democracy, a referendum involves the electorate voting on an issue rather than for a representative, as in a normal election. Thus it requires a direct decision from the voters and by-passes the normal processes of representative democracy. The wider use of referendums would improve democracy in the UK for a number of reasons. A democracy is all about public participation, if there was a wider use of referendums it would make the public more politically active, as direct questions would be asked to them on key issues which affect them. This would have a positive effect as there would be better turnouts in elections, as the public would feel more involved, and would feel that they had more of a say. Referendums offer the general public a choice, they are not only good for helping the public feel more involved but they are good for deciding important decisions such as changes to the constitution. Referendums help the politicians to know what the public wants and they help the public to voice their opinions on major issues. Referendums also stop the government from having so much power, and therefore maintains a democratic system as there is less chance of having a dictatorship. If there is an issue which divides parties’ on key issues which affect the public, the public can have their say. If this is “a government of the people” then there should have been a referendum on tuition fees as this was a controversial subject that affected a lot of people. If there was a referendum then people would either choose no to a rise in tuition fees or for a rise in tuition fees. The fact that the government just implemented this rule on us is what made this topic controversial as in a democracy people should have a choice and should be able to have their say. If there was a referendum on tuition fees then maybe there would have been fewer protests, as the people would feel that the politicians had listened to them.

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However, referendums often address complex questions that the public simply don’t understand. An example of this is the 1975 vote on whether the UK should stay in the EU community. Although the question still had a yes or no answer, the choices in which the public made had many consequences and implications that they just weren’t aware of. For example, if the UK were to leave the EU, UK businesses importing goods from the EU will be faced with additional costs and compliance to deal with as we would no longer have access to free movement of good around the EU. However the referendum itself still delivered a 67% yes vote, this can be explained through marketing. Both the government and big businesses backed the yes campaign. This meant that the positives of voting yes were ‘shoved down the throats of the public’. The advantages were advertised a lot whereas the negatives weren’t