Should vital matters of peace and economic prosperity be decided by public referendum?

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Should vital matters of peace and economic prosperity be decided by public referendum? 9

This week, the Colombian people delivered a shock to their government by voting to reject the peace deal with FARC that stood to end five decades of conflict. In doing so, they made their voices clear on the future of their country, but they may have also jeopardised it by rejecting the deal negotiated by the government. Similarly, in Britain this year, the people were consulted for the first time in over four decades on membership of the European Union, voting to leave despite the vast majority of experts predicting painful economic consequences. For Swiss people, referendums on all manner of policies are a part of ordinary political life, and have generally functioned relatively smoothly, but when they rejected free movement it left the country tied up in knots over its agreements with the EU. In many instances, representative democracy has left people feeling shut out of the political process, especially when politicians go back on the promises that got them elected. But referendums can often be derailed by media bias, spin and the pull of populism. And on vital issues of peace and economic prosperity, in which votes can often be led as much by the heart as by the head, should the public be the ones who make the final decision with so much at stake? Or is it patronising to assume people are not qualified to have a direct say in the future of their nation?

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