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When Citizens DecideLessons from Citizen Assemblies on Electoral Reform$
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Patrick Fournier, Henk van der Kolk, R. Kenneth Carty, André Blais, and Jonathan Rose

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567843

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567843.001.0001

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Why were the Assemblies’ Reform Proposals Rejected? 1

Why were the Assemblies’ Reform Proposals Rejected? 1

(p.126) 8 Why were the Assemblies’ Reform Proposals Rejected?1
When Citizens Decide

Patrick Fournier

Henk van der Kolk

R. Kenneth Carty

André Blais

Jonathan Rose

Oxford University Press

The three citizen assemblies fulfilled their mandates. Each came up with a recommendation for an electoral system, and delivered it on schedule and within budget. However, none has yet resulted in electoral reform. The two Canadian proposals were rejected by the public in referendums, while the Dutch proposal was submitted to the country’s cabinet which mostly ignored it. This chapter analyses how the citizen assemblies and their proposals were received by governments, political parties, media, and citizens. Empirically, it draws on news content analyses and public opinion surveys to document the views of both elites and masses, and to explain the failure of all three citizen assemblies to result in change. It is argued that the referendums mainly failed because elite signals and media attention were lacking. Most people did not learn about the issue, and lack of information produced a lack of support.

Keywords:   referendum, reform, information, support

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