Chicago Journal of International Law


In Israel's case, however, the framework for direct democracy will be developed in the shadow of highly emotional issues that will be its first subjects. Thus, many of the key issues of implementation will necessarily be resolved on the basis of political factors relating to the peace agreements, even if the referendum law is phrased broadly to provide rules for other popular elections. When the Knesset deliberates enacting a basic law relating to referendums, its members should consider the experience of other democracies in light of Israel's unique political situation. In this article, I will discuss three kinds of implementation issues and suggest possible resolutions. First, rules must determine the effect of the popular vote. Is the referendum binding or advisory? Is there any real difference between the two? What sort of vote is required for a referendum to pass? Will a certain threshold of the total electorate, in addition to a threshold of those voting in the election, be required for passage? Second, decisions affecting the information that voters receive about the referendum must be made, although they may be less important in the context of a salient, infrequent, high-profile nationwide referendum than in the United States context where a single ballot in a state with direct democracy may include several initiatives and referendums. Nevertheless, structuring the information environment surrounding the campaign and the vote is a crucial task. How will the question be worded on the ballot, and what information will appear on the ballot itself? What sort of official voter information booklet(s) will be sent to voters? Will the media be required to provide free time to both sides, and how will that be apportioned among groups? Third, those implementing direct democracy must adopt rules regulating the conduct of all the groups interested in the referendum. How will established groups, such as the current government that proposes the referendum and other political parties, be regulated? Will rules encourage the formation of new groups, such as umbrella organizations, to coordinate the activities of groups on both sides of the ballot question? What campaign finance regulations are appropriate? Is public funding available to registered groups? What disclosure requirements will groups and individuals active in the campaign face?

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