By : Feri Amsari

American direct democracy lies in the state. There are 19 states that implement direct democracy where the people can choose to recall the executive and legislative branches. While not a majority, the concept of direct democracy in some parts of the country should be observed.

That concept is not only dismissing elected officials but also the people can directly cancel the act that has been passed by the regional parliaments (referendum). Even the people can directly propose what kind of the act to be established by the parliament (initiative).

However, the Federal Government imposed a different concept. President is not elected directly and cannot be dismissed from the office, except through congress impeachment. Legislature is elected directly but they can not be dismissed by the public who elected them.

Important questions need to be asked through that difference. Why the people cannot recall Federal Government? They are also elected by the people. That different choices lead to consequences that bring necessarily different to the concept of people sovereignty.


Direct democracy brings a lot of praise and criticism. Elizabeth Garret considers that direct democracy is important for the improvement of local governance (Campaign Finance in the Hybrid Realm of Recall Election, Minnesota Law Review, 97 Minn. .L.Rev. 1654, May, 2013., P.2). As stated by Hiram Johnson, the concept of direct democracy would make elected officials will work for the public interest and not for the benefit of a political party (Larry N. Gerston and Terry Christensen, Recall! California’s Political Earthquake, ME Sharpe Inc., New York, 2004., P.5).

But direct democracy is also regarded as a democratic disaster. In their book, Larry N. Gerston and Terry Christensen provocatively called the recall as a political earthquake. If you look at James Madison’s opinion and Aristotle’s cyrcle of government, they believed that states direct democracy is the worst form of government. In this case, recall in 19 states seems very dangerous.

In fact, not many ” victims ” that fell thorugh recall authority. Since Oregon used recall in 1908 until now on that it has been used in 19 states, only 4 members of the legislature had been fired by using recall by the people. Meanwhile, California Governor Gray Davis being the only one that removed from office through the whole recall implemented in 19 states. Thus, giving sovereignty to the people is not apparently used as bad as Madison and Aristotle “imagination.”

Apply to Federal Government

In my opinion, the Federal Government cannot be removed by recall of the people is very intelligent decision. This option is related to government stability in the Presidential system which uses two dominant parties.

If implemented, the Federal Government will easily collapse. Therefore, the opposition party of government can easily force to destroy the current administration. The concept of the Presidential administration, characterized by a president fixed term in office (except if President violate the Constitution), would be easily swayed. We can not imagine what would be happened when government shut down through “Obamacare” would be continued. Fighting in parliament will be going on by using direct democracy concept where each party will fight each other to collect people signature in recall authority.

Government stability will be shaken. In the future, the next government efforts to run the country would be difficult to prevent. Each party will do revenge all the time by using recall. At this point, implementing recall on the states only is perceived to be really quite intelligent. But in the other side if the Federal Government does not use direct democracy concept, the country would be performed in the name of political party. There is no tool that can control bad political mindset in every branche of government. This condition makes us to rethink again our democracy to the new pattern in the future.