Popular Consultation – Concept, mechanisms, types and regulations

We explain what a popular consultation is, what forms it can take, its types and in what forms of government it is carried out.

Popular consultations are common features in a democracy.

What is a popular consultation?

Throughout the world, the different forms of public deliberations are known as popular consultations, as mechanisms for popular participation in political or social decisions. In other words, it is a mechanism to subjecting a specific issue of genuine importance to the will of public opinion.

Popular consultations are common in democracies, especially in the forms of direct democracy, and are normally described in the national constitution, which establishes the periods, dynamics and fundamental norms for their menifestations. In contrast, in autocratic forms of government they tend to be rather rare, and unreliable.

The very idea of ​​consulting the will of the people comes from ancient times, especially from the elections of the Roman Republic, or from the deliberation of the Greek Boulé, the council of citizens in charge of making public decisions. At present, however, there are the following forms of popular consultation:

  • Voting, in which the electorally suitable population expresses its opinion in a secret, direct and universal way, always within the provisions of the suffrage laws.
  • Popular legislative initiatives, in which a specific group of citizens is consulted regarding a local legislative decision, or to support or oppose a bill.
  • Plebiscites or referendums, massive consultations with the population to decide on a political controversy or an important proposal.

On the other hand, popular queries can be of two types:

  • Binding, when the result constitutes a political obligation for the rulers.
  • Non-binding, when its result is simply an opinion to be taken into account for political leadership, without having the status of law (although it does have a lot of moral weight).