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The impact of direct democracy on policy change: insights from European citizens’ initiatives

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Jale TosunHeidelberg University, Germany

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Daniel BélandMcGill University, Canada

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Yannis PapadopoulosUniversity of Lausanne, Switzerland

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Scholarship about both politics and policy tends to represent tools of direct democracy as veto points that are used to prevent policy change. In this study, we move beyond this unidimensional view and explain the conditions under which instruments of direct democracy can be conducive to policy change. We investigate both the direct and indirect effects of citizens’ initiatives to show that, under certain conditions, these can provide an opportunity for incremental yet potentially transformative policy change. We offer a systematic and comparative assessment of the policy effects generated by a set of European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECIs). ECIs provide an ideal setting for uncovering the potential indirect policy effects since they are not legally binding. Interestingly, some ECIs had tangible effects on EU policies, and these effects materialised over time and at different levels of the EU’s political system, and can be regarded as building blocks for potentially transformative policy change.

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Jale TosunHeidelberg University, Germany

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Daniel BélandMcGill University, Canada

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Yannis PapadopoulosUniversity of Lausanne, Switzerland

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