referendum(redirected from Citizen initiated referendum)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal.
in constitutional law, the adoption by an electorate of a final decision on constitutional, legislative, or other questions of domestic and foreign policy. The conditions for holding a referendum and the procedure to be followed are regulated by the constitution and legislation of a country.
Depending on the subject matter, the mode of holding the referendum, and the sphere of application, the following types of referenda are distinguished: constitutional, in which a draft constitution or constitutional draft amendments are submitted for a nationwide vote; legislative, in which the subject of the referendum is a draft law; imperative; and facultative. Under an imperative referendum, the draft of the given act is subject to ratification by the entire electorate. For example, in the USA a draft amendment to the constitution must be approved in all 50 states. The initiative for holding a facultative referendum may come from the electorate, as in Italy, certain cantons of a federation, as in Switzerland, or the central authority, as in France. A referendum is one of the elements of direct democracy, but the degree of actual democratism of the referendum depends primarily on the class essence of the state where the referendum is being held. For example, in bourgeois countries with authoritarian regimes, a referendum is often used by the ruling circles as a means of imposing some reactionary law on the population.
Article 115 of the Constitution of the USSR provides for a referendum (a nationwide vote). The constitutions of Bulgaria, Hungary and the German Democratic Republic also provide for referenda.