Monday, June 13, 2005

Direct Democracy, Embryos and the Italian Referendum

Italy is one of the few country in the world where it exists a strong instrument of direct democracy: the abrogative referendum (art. 75 of the Italian Constitution). It is abrogative in so far that, people can only decide whether to repeal part or the totality of an existing statute. They can only do so by answering a question that has been prepared by the organizer of the referendum. Albeit limited in scope, the referendum played an important role in italian life on issues such as abortion, divorce [1974], and electoral statutes [1993].

Today, unfortunately, italian people have failed to abrogate a very bad law on the status of embryos, which I have already criticised. The referendum did not succeed in abrogating the statute because of the low turn up (only 38%).

This is a good example to use against all those that pretend more direct democracy. Italina has had a massive use of it. At times people responded, other times they couldn't be bothered. Today, it is the case. The question is vital, since it concerns the future of research on embryos, plus a set of associated problems concerning assisted procreation.

Today it is not a victory for anyone. Even those who voted for the no, knows that this is a bad statute: they will have to modify it in the parliament. It is, however, a defeat for direct democracy.

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