The Agenda Initiative: between direct and representative democracy

  • Suárez Antón, Orestes
  • Welp, Yanina


After the experience of the Brexit, the peace plebiscite in Colombia or the Netherlands rejection of the Ukraine agreement all in 2016, more and more opinions against direct democracy are heard. However, in the context of citizen’s dissatisfaction with representative democracy there is also a growing claim for more transparency, accountability and participation. In this scenario, the Agenda Initiative (AI) may offer a good solution to promote citizen’s engagement without leaving representatives aside. Its activation could promote deliberation and enrich the public debate without challenging the equilibrium between powers. However, how does it work is not crystal clear. To contribute to close the research gap, this paper focuses on the conditions under what the AI succeeds or fail in giving a voice to citizens in policy making?

The AI is regulated at least in twelve countries in Europe and in ten in Latin America, but beyond legal studies and few case studies of the most well-known (specially the European Citizens Initiative), the mechanisms has been practically ignored. This research seeks to understand when and why the AI succeeds or fails analyzing institutional designs e.g. number and distribution of signatures, forms, process of presentation and defense, among others; as well as political conditions e.g. public and political parties support, media support, etc.

The study analyses the European Citizens Initiative and European (Spain and Austria) and Latin American cases (Colombia and Costa Rica) to offer a legal and political study of the Agenda initiative, an instrument that has been object of a very little consideration, despite was introduced almost one hundred years ago in the Austrian constitution of 1920.