colombia referendum

Direct Democracy Strikes Again

A man reads a newspaper with the headline that reads in Spanish: "Colombia said No" in Bogota, Colombia, Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. Voters rejected a peace deal with leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, by a razor-thin margin in a national referendum Sunday, dismissing years of negotiations and delivering a setback to President Juan Manuel Santos. Final results showed that 50.2 percent opposed the accord, while 49.8 percent favored it. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Many people were surprised that "Colombia said No" in a referendum on a proposed peace agreement with leftist rebels.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Referendums are often used as a political tool by governments and often undermine established systems of representative democracy, the author argues.

  • Facts


    • In a referendum on Sunday, Colombian voters rejected a peace deal with leftist rebels.
    • In June, British voters unexpectedly voted to leave the E.U., upsetting politics in the bloc and leading to protracted uncertainty.
    • An earlier Dutch referendum with a turnout only just above the required minimum of 30 percent, led to the rejection of a political, trade and defense treaty.
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Once again, a referendum has turned a country upside down. In June, British voters decided to take their country out of the European Union; now, a narrow majority of Colombians have rejected a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombians have taken a leap in the dark – and perhaps a leap back into the violent abyss of never-ending war.

Populists everywhere are no doubt celebrating the outcome as another clear rebuke to self-interested elites who have “rigged” their governments against the people. And the people, they say, should have a direct voice in the important decisions affecting their lives – apparently even decisions about war and peace.

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