Seána Glennon: Is a referendum the ultimate exercise in democracy or autocracy?

Far-right politician Marine Le Pen has promised a ‘referendum revolution’ if she wins the French presidential election later today, but are referendums the will of the people, or the tool of the authoritarian?

A one-sided campaign by state-controlled media preceded Russia’s referendum in 2020, which passed with a landslide majority: the referendum included an amendment which would permit Vladimir Putin to remain in office for a further 16 years. Picture: AFP via Getty

Later today, we will find out if the opinion polls are correct and Emmanuel Macron wins a second term as president of France. If they are wrong and Marine Le Pen is headed for the Élysée Palace, we can expect the far-right politician to usher in a “referendum revolution”.

Le Pen has promised, in an effort to bypass parliament and grant power to the people, to use referendums to revise the French constitution. During the ...