Thesis Open Access

Explaining citizenship light in the context of direct democracy

Veri, Francesco

Thesis supervisor(s)

Blatter, Joachim; Caramani, Daniele

The extension of citizenship rights – i.e. citizenship light (CL) -  in modern liberal states has been only studied in the context of representative democratic arena. Explanation regarding citizenship rights extension and restriction have not been yet clarified in the context of direct democracy.

The direct democratic decision-making process differs from the representative democratic one, this imply that the conditions that explain the CL extension or restriction in the direct democratic arena are different to the conditions that explain the same phenomenon in the representative democratic arena. Indeed the direct democratic arena decision making process is characterized by two major hurdles which are absent in the representative democratic arena. First, in the direct democratic arena the consensus of voters is required to deliberate policies: without that consent policies are blocked. Second, the conflicts amongst political actors on the direct democratic arena are broader than the ones in the representative democratic arena because of the lack of deliberative spaces that allows every political actors to reach consensus over the CL policies.

This PhD thesis aims to individuate under which conditions bills that support citizenship rights extension are successful or unsuccessful in the direct democratic arena. In order to pursue this research, I have undertaken a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) of every referendum in western liberal democracy questioning CL policies. I have individuated a total of five theoretically-informed conditions that explain citizenship liberalization and the success of popular votes. I then located these conditions within two configurational hypotheses which suppose how referendum proponents might overtake direct democratic hurdles.

The analysis for the success of referendums reveals that the only sufficient path that leads to the popular vote’s success is to insert the sensitive issues into a multifaced bill. As demonstrated by a more in-depth case-analysis, the condition of having multiple issue referendum is sufficient for the success of CL referendum because such condition allows to the reduction of the conflicts amongst political actors and deactivate voters’ negative attitudes towards CL object. Political actors’ conflicts are reduced because multiple issue revisions that involved a CL policy always refers to total constitutional revisions: in this type of revision, political actors reach a consensus over the referendum object before the referendum is held. Meanwhile the deactivation of voters’ negative attitudes towards CL object happen because the sensitive CL object is hidden to voters during the referendum campaign. Finally, the analysis of the failure of referendum reveals that conditions popular initiated  referendum opposed by the government and a divided rightwing government together with strong populist parties lead to the CL failure. These conditions leads to CL failure because they raise the conflicts amongst political actors in the direct democratic arena.

+ Code Diss LU: UNILU Diss 2019 F2 EL + Fussnote: Dissertation, Universität Luzern, 2019
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