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(plĕb`ĭsīt) [Lat.,=popular decree], vote of the people on a question submitted to them, as in a referendumreferendum,
referral of proposed laws or constitutional amendments to the electorate for final approval. This direct form of legislation, along with the initiative, was known in Greece and other early democracies.
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. The term, however, has acquired the more specific meaning of a popular vote concerning changes of sovereignty, as compared to a regularized system of popular voting upon laws and constitutional amendments. This more modern use of the plebiscite arose out of the French Revolution and the French Republic's policy of holding popular votes on the question of French annexation of a territory it had occupied. Many, although not all, of these plebiscites and those held in the following century were manipulated by the occupying power to legitimate an outcome already achieved through military or diplomatic means. The use of the plebiscite reached a high point following World War I, when it was employed extensively in Central and Eastern Europe to determine the boundaries of newly created nation states. Since then, it has been used in settling the status of disputed or border territories, e.g., SaarlandSaarland
, state (1994 pop. 1,080,000), 991 sq mi (2,567 sq km), SW Germany; formerly called the Saar or the Saar Territory. Saarbrücken is the capital; other cities include Völklingen, Saarlouis, and Sankt Ingbert.
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 (1935) and, most recently, in the process of the decolonization of Africa and Asia, e.g., West New Guinea (1969; see PapuaPapua
or Irian Jaya
, province (2014 est pop. 3,486,000), 123,180 sq mi (319,036 sq km), Indonesia. Comprising most of the western half of New Guinea and a number of offshore islands, it is Indonesia's largest province; the extreme western peninsulas and offshore
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) and Namibia (1989).


See S. Wambaugh, Plebiscites since the World War (1933); L. T. Farley, Plebiscites and Sovereignty (1986).



(1) In ancient Rome, a resolution (plebiscitum) passed by assemblies of the plebs. The plebiscite, which originated in the early fifth century B.C., was not confirmed by the Senate and was originally binding only on the plebs. The plebiscite became binding on all the people through the laws of Valerius and Horatius (449 B.C.), Publius Philo (339 B.C.), and Hortensius (287 B.C.). In the third century B.C., lex (law) gradually replaced the plebiscite.

(2) A type of popular vote. As a rule, a plebiscite is conducted by a state that has annexed a foreign territory. The population is offered a plebiscite in order to give an accomplished fact the appearance of popular sanction.

In international relations, a plebiscite is held when foreign territories are seized or annexed in order to determine the will of the people in regard to state affiliation.

As stipulated by the Constitution of the USSR, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR or its Presidium may submit a draft law for a national discussion or a national referendum either on its own initiative or at request of a Soviet Republic.


1. a direct vote by the electorate of a state, region, etc., on some question of usually national importance, such as union with another state or acceptance of a government programme
2. any expression or determination of public opinion on some matter
References in periodicals archive ?
See TUCK, supra note 8 at 190-205 (describing the development of plebiscitary constitutionalism as the predominant American model).
The leader's stable supermajority is key to stability under the proposed model of plebiscitary presidentialism.
Parliament must still adequately explain its reasons in cases where it rejects citizens' proposals, but as in the referendum by popular plebiscitary initiative, citizens may propose only on topics covered by the Parliament's competencies.
Efron argued that she feared that a future Congress might enact plebiscitary legislation that collectively denaturalized persons born in Puerto Rico and she sought to acquire a constitutional citizenship through naturalization.
Well aware of the realities of human nature, not only its higher potentialities but also its perennial weaknesses, the framers understood that supposedly classical republicanism was destructively plebiscitary.
14) Shi, "Voting and Non-Voting in China: Voting Behaviour in Plebiscitary and Limited Choice Elections", p.
We may relax the burden of proving discriminatory purpose and be more imaginative about the sources we canvass--for example, ballot pamphlets, exit polls, campaign advertising--or we may abandon the purpose requirement altogether in certain plebiscitary settings.
Such loyalties are mandatorily expressed in support marches, assemblies of applaud touring dignitaries, purchase of party cards, display of the presidential portrait, participation in plebiscitary elections etc.
Neo-liberal and growing institutionalized citizenship regimes coexist with corporatist political forms, popular mobilization, and plebiscitary democracy.
Many new democracies thus fall rapidly into "super-presidentialism" with plebiscitary qualities.
For instance, he half-heartedly mentions Bruce Ackerman's thesis that the New Deal is a "constitutional moment" during which a kind of unwritten, and plebiscitary, constitutional amendment took place.