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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 ?
Yoshinobu Ishikawa calling for a plebiscite on whether to continue construction of an airport in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan.
Thus, before the federal government can hold a referendum or a plebiscite, it must pass enabling legislation: a federal law allowing the government to hold the vote, setting out the effect of the vote (whether the results will be binding or not) and establishing the procedure which will be followed in conducting the vote.
Drilon said he remained convinced that the House wanted the barangay and SK elections held simultaneously with the plebiscite for a new Constitution, noting the filing of two bills for that purpose.
Realistically speaking, however, the exercise of even that Constitutionally granted 'authority' would most likely be attended by so many checks and balances-appeals and whatnot-that, in the end, it would be quite a stretch to say that the Comelec approved the holding of a plebiscite on its own.
So in the budget that the Congress will make for the plebiscite, it is important that they put in a substantial amount to help the public understand why we want to change in the Constitution," he added
JRL reminded Omer Abdullah that the Indira Abdullah accord of 1975 was another blow to the people's resistance movement when late Sheikh Abdullah again let the nation down after decimating the Plebiscite Front and the efforts and sacrifices of those who stood by him when he was leading them in that direction.
India, through various commitments, had also agreed to hold a plebiscite in IOK.
Several independent MPs had already ruled out supporting the national plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
That a plebiscite on PEI's electoral system shall be supervised by Elections PEI, and that Elections PEI shall consider alternative methods of voting in the plebiscite;
India's former information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari Pakistan read plebiscite resolution Pakistan to withdraw areas occupies before plebiscite.
JEDDAH: Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) held a meeting here last week calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir and activation of Rabita Trust for repatriating the Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh.
The ruling bloc downplayed the opposition the city of Iwakuni expressed in Sunday's plebiscite to the planned relocation of carrier-borne U.