Shotgun Referendums: Popular Deliberation in Constested Regions

Much deliberative democracy theory examines the capacity of public institutions to promote governance by deliberation instead of bald coercion. Recent works have even examined the prospects for deliberation during an exercise long thought to be paradigmatically anti-deliberative: referendum voting. Tierney, Fishkin, Kildea, and Levy have assessed the possibilities of designing ‘deliberative referendums’. Yet these past works have seldom strayed from the comfort zone of stable polities with relatively homogenous commitments to liberal-democratic principles. This project sets out to assess the plausibility of using deliberative referendums to achieve lasting constitutional settlements in conflict regions. ‘Shotgun referendums’ refer to referendums/plebiscites in regions such as Crimea, Hong Kong, and (aspirationally) Israel-Palestine. Depending on their design, and on the intentions of their creators, shotgun referendums can either help to resolve or catalyse conflict.