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Engaged by being disempowered: Italians experience direct democracy

Italians are among the most active participants of European Citizens Initiatives (ECIs). Yet when it comes to national referendums or petitions there are fluctuating levels of involvement because these instruments are often perceived to be ineffective. And not without reason. Citizens’ legislative initiatives have rarely been converted into national laws and, according to the Italian Constitution, Italy’s obligations under international and EU treaties cannot be changed by public consultation any- way. Unlike the ECIs, which are thought to be an effective direct democratic instrument, the poor success rates of national direct democratic instruments have resulted in the latter being used more to protest against the government and the status quo than to influence the legislative process.

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