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SPP 243

Author: Ronald J Hill, Trinity College, Dublin and Stephen White, U. of Glasgow
Description: The referendum has become an increasingly prominent feature of the political practice of communist and now of postcommunist nations. Mentioned briefly in earlier Soviet constitutions and provided for in a separate article in the constitution of 1977, it was defined by legislation in late 1990 and then employed in 1991 to address the future of a 'reformed' USSR. In Russia, under slightly earlier legislation, referendums were conducted in 1991 to establish an elected presidency and then twice in 1993 in an attempt to break a political deadlock and to define the constitutional order. Drawing upon survey evidence and considering the related experience of Eastern Europe, the paper argues that the referendum has become an institutionalised feature of the political practice of the postcommunist nations but that it has frequently been abused for party political purposes and that in Russia particularly its future employment will require a more securely defined procedural basis.

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