Slovenia rejects new family law

Last week in Slovenia, voters rejected, via a national referendum, a new family law that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The new family code was passed by the then-governing center-left coalition in 2011 but a conservative religious group collected the signatures necessary to challenge the law in a referendum.With a low turnout of approximately 26 percent, around 55 percent of voters rejected the law, while about 45 percent supported it.

I’ve discussed several times my opposition to direct democracy without turnout thresholds. They allow a small, driven group of individuals to pass laws  so long as the rest of the population isn’t as equally mobilized to stop them.  This is a great example of that. Should Slovenia really be overturning such an important law based on the preferences of just over 14 percent of voters?

Posted on April 1, 2012, in Elections and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Well, if the law was that important, I’m sure that more people would have bothered to take the few steps to the next polling station…

    The problem with thresholds is that they often result in extremely biased results. In the case of the referendum in Slovenia, had there been a threshold, the government would probably have advised people not to go voting at all (or take other, possibly nastier measures to keep turnout low). Exactly this game takes place regularly in Italy, where the losing side often gets 90 percent of the votes and more. This gets extremely frustrating for voters who make their way to the polling station but whose vote doesn’t count. And how democratic is it, in a democracy, to urge people not to use their political rights? Needless to say, the strategy can also backfire, leading to laws being approved that a majority reject (or vice versa).

    Furthermore, if there should be a threshold for referendums, why shouldn’t there be one for elections as well? Or isn’t it possible that “a small, driven group of individuals” force their will on the rest of the population in an election? The argument is exactly the same, since there is no fundamental difference between elections and referendums.

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