Metta Spencer

How to Enhance Democracy and Discourage Secession

From: World Security: the New Challenge, Carl Jacobsen et. al, editors for Pugwash and Science for Peace. Toronto: Dundurn, 1994

By Metta Spencer
Erindale College, University of Toronto

Framing a constitution is a fundamental means of preventing warfare, but when it is successful, the effect is invisible. Not only do certain wars not happen, but in the best cases, no one will ever realize that they might have happened. Because this is so, the formulation of voting systems is dismissed as an arcane irrelevance by those who care about "real" problems, such as military crises. In the worst cases, on the other hand, when a war begins no one can think of an acceptable way to end it. Witness especially ethnic wars, such as those raging now in the Balkans, the Transcaucasus, and Sri Lanka. The intractability of such secessionist wars can be gauged by the persistence of the conflicts in Northern Ireland, in Israel, in Pakistan and India, which may never end. The only solution to such wars is prevention, and the only practical preventive is a structural innovation that can solve the problems that cause them.

It most be recognized, first, that the dominant motivation leading to the partition of states is the aspiration for democracy -- an aspiration that can be fulfilled by unfamiliar means. What will be proposed here is a system for reducing ethnic conflicts and, at the same time, increase the political effectiveness of all members of the society. There is a common misconception that the quality of democratic systems vary only marginally. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider these questions: Why are nationalistic campaigns for independence surging at precisely the moment when previously totalitarian or authoritarian states are becoming democratic? Why do countries such as Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union, begin to break up as soon as their citizens glimpse the prospect of self-rule? Why are even long-time democratic societies, such as Canada and Britain, experiencing secessionist movements? The evident answer is this: In a democracy, the majority wins and minorities lose. This creates a powerful incentive for each minority to demand its own sovereign state where, as the majority, it will always win. As democracy spreads, secessionist nationalists look for other ways of attaining political potency; the first idea that springs to mind is to partition existing nation states so that they can achieve "self-determination," or sovereign statehood.

Instead of addressing this problem by seeking for internal structural reforms, democratic societies promote this fragmentation by treating "self-determination" as a collective "human right" -- which is generally interpreted as the right to secede. Let us consider instead a way of enhancing self-determination without partitioning states into new sovereign territorial entities.

Who is entitled to self-determination? Clearly, an individual does not have a right to reject his or her nation state and form a private government; only groups have the right to "self-determination." But to be entitled to that right, how large a minority does a group have to be? Why does speaking a similar language or sharing a common history give some groups this collective right? Should this offer extend to such groups as trade unions, churches, or other voluntary groups that people join and leave freely? (DeGeorge, 1991: 2-4) If not, why not? The usual answer: Only a "people" is entitled to self-determination. But what is "a people"? A tribe? An ethnic group? A linguistic community? A religious community? The question involves the relationship between parts and wholes. (Is there such a thing as a "Canadian" people, a "Yugoslav" people, or an "American" people? Is there a "Russian" people? What about Russians who have lived all their lives in Estonia? When do they stop being "Russians"? Are the Russian emigrés who have spent most of their lives in Canada "Russians"? What about their children, who have never been to Russia? Or their grandchildren who have married Italian immigrants?)

Evidently a "people" is not a concept than can be defined operationally. Likewise, the notion of self-determination is a myth -- an inspiring ideal, perhaps, but not a practicable rule. Still, some myths have value: They summon us forward. As a mythic ideal, self-determination offers much that is worth striving for -- so long as it is voluntary and nondiscriminatory. Those two caveats make quite a difference.

As a practical principle, the principle of self-determination is nowhere applied consistently. Thus colonists fought the American Revolution to free themselves from Britain, but when their Southern grandchildren tried to do the same thing by forming the Confederacy and seceding from the Union, the Northern grandchildren prevented it -- and many of us would say, rightly so.

The liberation movements that brought colonialism to an end legitimized their actions in terms of the principle of self-determination. But that myth today as used to justify (Buchanan, 1991) secessionist claims by the Catholics in Northern Ireland, for the Scottish and the Welsh, for the Bashkirs and Tatars in Russia, for the South Ossetians and Abkhazians in Georgia, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the Sikhs in India, not to mention the Quebecois, the Slovaks, the Basques, the Flemings -- the list goes on. Everywhere grave conflicts have arisen because liberal, progressive people have underestimated the destructiveness of partitioning nation states, and have assumed that any group wanting its own homeland is, ipso facto, entitled to it. Ethnic groups have been encouraged to demand secession in the name of democracy by people who should have known that it would lead to what we have witnessed in Bosnia-Herzegovina: genocide that is called "ethnic cleansing."

This outcome was predictable. Historically, secession has been disastrous in the great majority of cases. As Robert Schaeffer has pointed out (1990), over 13 million people have died since World War II in fights preceding and following partition in Korea, Palestine, India, and Vietnam. Whenever a nation is partitioned, war often breaks out, families, buildings, and farms are divided; millions become refugees; internal strife hardens into permanent international hostility; and the remaining minorities within each of the new states are even more abused than in the larger previous state. No effort should be spared to find alternatives to the manifestation of ethnic identity in the form of nationalistic claims for territory. Ernest Gellner's widely accepted definition of nationalism is "primarily a principle which holds that the political and national unit should be congruent." (Gellner, 1983: 1)

The reason for objecting to this equation is that in most cases, a mono-ethnic state is an unattainable dream. Less than ten percent of all existing states are ethnically homogeneous. Most of them have more than five major ethnic groups within their borders. (Matthews, Rubinoff, and Stein, 1989: 91) Rarely can there be found places to draw boundaries to split a nation into separate homogeneous new states; almost inevitably, minorities will remain in each of the new territories. And land is finite, which means that territorial expansion is a zero-sum game; each group can gain territory only at the expense of another group's territorial claims.

Actually, the ideal is relatively new in history that nation-states should be composed of separate, distinct ethnic communities. Eric Hobsbawm (1990:19) attributes the rise of this aspiration to the rise of the nation state. "The equation nation = state = people, and especially sovereign people, undoubtedly linked nation to territory, since structure and definition of states were now essentially territorial." In previous eras homogeneity was typical of isolated barbarian societies, not of high civilizations, which were poly-ethnic. William McNeill has traced the course of the extraordinary idea that

"it is right and proper and normal for a single people to inhabit a particular piece of territory and obey a government of their own devising....The idea that a government rightfully should rule only over citizens of a single ethnos took root haltingly in western Europe, beginning in the late middle ages; it got into high gear and became fully conscious in the late eighteenth century and flourished vigorously until about 1920; since which time the ideal has unquestionably begun to weaken in western Europe, where it began, but in other parts of the world, especially in the ex-colonial lands of Africa and Asia, it has continued to find fertile ground." (McNeill, 1985:6-7)

If writing today, no doubt McNeill would include in this fertile ground the countries that recently were in the Soviet orbit.

McNeill's historical account is consistent with the common assumption that ethnic consciousness peaks during an early stage of modernization, giving rise to "ersatz" or "imagined" communities -- to use respectively the terms of Karl Deutsch (1969) and Benedict Anderson (1983) -- and declines thereafter. And indeed, there is empirical evidence that ethnicity has ceased to be a permanently ascribed identity and has become a transitory, optional one. A citizen may pick up, drop, and even change ethnicity several times during a lifetime. (Waters, 1990) This fact exposes the flimsy basis of nationalists' demands for undying loyalty. Instead of being natural or inevitable, ethnic identity is a precarious ideological construct of no assured duration. Collective national identities may be supplanted over time by alternative forms of interest groups and parties as people become integrated into mature democratic political systems.

Nevertheless, until that happens -- and it may not happen -- new arrangements are needed to satisfy in the least destructive way possible the demands of nationalists for self-determination. Fortunately, there may be a way to do so and simultaneously enhance democracy, rather than undermine it. In fact, the reason minorities are continuing to demand "self-determination" is that they are consistent losers under the rules of everyday democratic practice. Democracy is, by definition, "rule by the majority," not by a minority. In the best of circumstances all citizens in a democracy take turns being outvoted. However, cultural groups that constitute permanent minorities can never expect to win any political contest. No wonder they want out.

Such groups may differ demographically in their distribution within a society. In one case, a minority group may be dispersed so thinly through the population that it is nowhere numerous enough to elect a parliamentarian of its own. In another case, a minority may be concentrated in a particular district where it constitutes a local majority; predictably, it is in the latter case that a group's members tend to regard secession as a solution to their problem. They recognize that it would enable them to be, no longer a permanent minority in a large state, but instead a permanent majority capable of winning every political contest in their small new state. They may not see the disadvantages of this until later.

What is lacking are democratic methods of protecting minority rights and enhancing self-determination without resort to secession. There is room for improvement along these lines in all democratic societies, even in even societies with well-observed charters of rights and with few minority problems.

Unfortunately, most people assume that democracy has already been perfected and that improvements are neither needed nor possible. But as Robert Dahl has written, "Whatever form it takes, the democracy of our successors will not and cannot be the democracy of our predecessors. Nor should it be." (1989:340) Luckily, not all possible forms of democracy have yet been tried; there is room for innovation. As political scientists Andrew Reeve and Alan Ware (1992:4) point out, "Not only is there a considerable number of electoral systems that we could think of if we tried; in reality there is an infinite variety of electoral systems that could be devised."

Accordingly, let us consider three possible innovations; to maximize the benefit for minorities, they should all be adopted as a package. They are: (1) non-territorial constituencies for parliamentarians; (2) direct democracy through referenda; and (3) weighted voting according to the intensity of preference.

1. Non-Territorial Constituencies

In democratic states, votes are usually aggregated in geographical districts of approximately equal population size, though there are exceptions. One illustrative exception is Ontario, where an enumerator comes door-to-door before each election to ask all voters to declare their religious preference: Catholic or any other faith. Catholics' property taxes support Catholic schools and they elect the trustees of the Catholic School Board. All others' taxes support the public schools and they vote for trustees of the Public School Board. Thus different constituencies occupy the same geographical districts, yet handle their own distinct sets of problems independently. This solution provides a measure of "self-determination" in a context of social integration.

Similarly, electoral reforms have been suggested in Canada that will reserve seats in Parliament for representatives of aboriginal Indians, in proportion to their numbers -- almost 2 percent of the population. In the existing system of territorial constituencies, these indigenous peoples are too dispersed to be able to elect a representative to the House of Commons. The proposed reform is one of several measures designed to increase their self-determination without re-drawing any territorial boundaries. As we shall see, one can invent other possible ways of maximizing self-determination without partitioning states or segregating peoples.

Non-territorial constituencies already form the basis for electing legislators in a few countries, such as Malta and Ireland, where constituencies of farmers, university personnel, and other functional groups are allocated seats in the Senate in proportion to their numbers in the population. Likewise, in Amsterdam, legislators are elected, not to represent particular districts, but to represent particular interest groups. (Incidentally, the votes that they receive become the basis for allocating other benefits, including the content of television programming. Catholic voters not only elect a number of Catholic city councillors, but are given control over a proportional number of minutes of television programming per month. Anarchists, gays, Latin Americans, and other distinctive communities also elect their own city councillors and receive their proportional share of TV time. Reportedly, anarchists receive too few votes to elect a city councillor of their own, but anyway they are eligible for a few minutes of television time each month.)

Thus it is possible for groups to form constituencies that are not defined territorially or by ascribed social traits, but voluntarily on whatever basis they choose. Such constituencies may include nationality groups -- for as long as people identify themselves as such. However, if individuals gradually come to assign higher priority to a different group identity (e.g. trade union membership, religious affiliation, feminism, or vegetarianism) they can form a new constituency and re-register accordingly, regardless of where they live. No fights for turf will arise and no one will have to move away to win political representation.

What I am proposing is that electoral districts be abolished (at least for one house of a bicameral legislature) and replaced by non-territorial constituencies, to be determined by voluntary registration, just as the Catholics in Ontario identify themselves voluntarily and may change their religious identity at will. (No objective criteria for membership should ever be permitted, lest people be classified involuntarily, according to some racist scheme, for example.) The number of deputies or parliamentarians to be elected by each constituency will be proportional to the number of voters registered in it. Communities can be represented politically, regardless of where their members live, though issues that are of local interest will predominantly attract the votes of local citizens.

What are the advantages of such a system in comparison to more common systems for aggregating votes? The chief advantage is similar to that of proportional representation (PR) in party systems: even small minorities will be able to gain some representation in parliament. The proposal should also appeal to a minority group that is clustered in a particular region where it forms a local majority. These are the most likely groups to become secessionists, and our scheme might be acceptable to them as a substitute for secession,[1] at least in combination with the other two elements of this proposal.

2. Direct Democracy

There will always be a need for some type of legislature, preferably representing constituencies as described above. However, true democracy also allows citizens to participate in decision-making directly and not only through their elected representatives. Referendums are well-established practices in certain polities, such as Switzerland and California, where political decisions seem to be no worse than those made elsewhere.

The effectiveness of referendums depends on the ability of citizens to study the issues. These opportunities can be increased by technological means. As Robert Dahl notes,

"By means of telecommunications, virtually every citizen could have information about public issues almost immediately accessible in a form (print, debates, dramatization, animated cartoons, for example) and at a level (from expert to novice, for example) appropriate to the particular citizen. Telecommunications can also provide every citizen with opportunities to place questions on this agenda of public issue information." (Dahl, 1989:339-40)

Theoretically there is one problem with a referendum: certain propositions put before the voters may be incompatible. In reality however, this concern seems not to be warranted; in California, where approximately 30 propositions are placed on the ballot each time, two contradictory proposals are never adopted. And if this did happen, the Supreme Court would provide a judgment to resolve the question. Parties and interest groups distribute arguments for or against particular propositions. By no means can all decisions be made by referendum; the legislators, the judiciary, and the executive branches of government all have their parts to play.

As a guarantee that minorities will be able to place their concerns on the public agenda, I suggest that each constituency that is sizeable enough to elect at least one parliamentarian should be guaranteed the right to submit one proposition to the electorate in an annual referendum. If, say, there are 20 constituencies, each referendum will comprise 20 propositions. What is truly revolutionary about the present proposals is the unusual way in which citizens will vote for or against those propositions.

3. Weighted Voting

The preceding two proposals do not actually eliminate the most objectionable aspect of territorial democratic voting: the fact that minority cultural groups can always be outvoted. Rules are enacted by the majority and imposed on the minority. A fair system is needed that will give minority groups an opportunity to enact certain measures of their own choosing, with the approval of the majority. Happily, the proposed solution to this problem will benefit, not only minority groups, but all citizens alike. Although all voters have equal decision-making power, they do not all care equally about the same issues. Each citizen only wants to influence certain decisions that concern him or her, and would gladly let others decide the remainder. A system of weighted voting makes this feasible. The outcome will be determined both by the number of voters expressing their opinion on an issue, and also by the intensity of their opinion on the matter.

In the hypothetical annual referendum proposed above, each voter is entitled to cast 20 votes -- one for or against each proposition. With a weighted voting system, however, each voter may "spend" his or her votes in various ways, distributing them across the referendum as he or she likes.[2] It is one shortcoming of all conventional democratic systems that one's vote on a deeply-felt matter will be "cancelled out" by other voters who have nothing at stake and who may even flip a coin to decide how to vote. The proposed system of weighted voting gives all citizens more opportunity selectively to influence the issues that are salient to them and to skip others. Decisions will sometimes be made by a small number of voters who care strongly about a given issue -- a circumstance that will especially please minorities, while also augmenting the political power of all voters.

Let us consider, as an illustration, three hypothetical citizens of a democratic nation, Mrs. Urdoh, Mr. Ivanov, and Dr. Yang, who confront a referendum listing 20 propositions, each of which will be enacted by a simple majority of the votes cast on it.

Let us suppose that Mrs. Urdoh cares profoundly about an issue that her ethnic group placed on the ballot -- a measure that would require that the nation's paper money to be printed in her group's traditional Somali language. Mrs. Urdoh may "spend" all 20 of her votes to endorse this proposal, Proposition 4, though she must then forego voting on any of the remaining 19 propositions.

Another voter, Mr. Ivanov, may not care at all what language is displayed on the paper money. He decides not to vote on that item, thereby saving one vote which he uses by casting two votes against Proposition Eleven -- a measure that would prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays. Apart from that, Mr. Ivanov casts one vote in favor of each of the propositions.

The third voter, Dr. Yang, is also indifferent as to which languages will be displayed on the national currency. She does have a firm opinion on the alcohol issue, however, and differs from Mr. Ivanov. Dr. Yang spends her 20 votes equally on four issues. She casts five votes against Proposition 5 (which would require women to cover the whole body with a veil whenever appearing in public), five votes for Proposition 11 (which would forbid the sale of alcohol on Sundays), five votes against Proposition 12 (which would authorize the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the country's largest river), and five votes in favor of Proposition 17 (which would authorize a system of alternative service for young men who are conscientiously opposed to military action.)

Figure 1 displays the results as far as these three voters are concerned, with respect to only five of the 20 propositions. (Since Mr. Ivanov voted on 19 propositions, his effect on the outcome of this referendum will not be fully apparent here.)


Proposition 4: Somali language on national currency: passed (20 pro votes, 0 con).

Proposition 5: Veil in public: defeated (1 pro vote, 5 con votes).

Proposition 11: Alcohol prohibition on Sundays: passed (5 pro votes, 2 con)

Proposition 12: Hydroelectric dam: defeated (1 pro vote, 5 con).

Proposition 17: Alternative service: passed (1 pro vote, 0 con).

It can be seen that the weighted voting scheme used in this referendum has certain unusual consequences, namely that every voter can have more influence over the decisions that he or she cares about than would be the case given the usual system of voting. Everyone -- not only minorities -- will gain from this approach. However, minorities may be the most enthusiastic supporters of such an innovation because now they will sometimes win. No group will necessarily constitute a permanent minority any more, perpetually outvoted and unable to effect their cherished cultural goals.

Best of all, the rest of the society will be satisfied whenever the minority wins a proposition. In the example shown above, only one person voted on Proposition 1, which would print the country's money in the Somali language, yet that proposition received the most substantial victory of all, making Mrs. Urdoh a satisfied citizen. But Mr. Ivanov and Dr. Yang are also satisfied with this outcome; if they had not found it acceptable, they would have voted against it. The strength of their opinions is registered in the proportion of votes that each person casts.

The proposed system is egalitarian. All voters have the same amount of power. It is also a win-win solution, benefiting everyone and disadvantaging no one. Minorities will sometimes win political contests -- at least when the majority does not disapprove. Not only minorities will gain political power through weighted voting; so will all other citizens. Everyone can influence the decisions that they most care about and allow others to do likewise.

However, a single referendum may not be the last word on a controversy. Issues that pass easily in one referendum may become sources of dissatisfaction later, and reappear on a subsequent referendum. For example, this voting scheme has been simulated in several settings, including a 120 member sociology class in Canada. Four of the students approached the referendum in a playful mood. They formed a constituency representing "anglo-Canadians" and put forward a proposition that all Canadian beer must have an alcohol content of at least 5 percent. In fact, they argued spiritedly before the amused class in favor of this legislation. They were the only students, in the end, who voted on it, and they "spent" all their votes supporting their proposition, with good results -- it carried. At first glance this example merely seems to show that a silly measure can pass if too few people care enough about it to waste votes in blocking it. On the other hand, one can welcome this outcome as evidence that a minority group can win -- at least on measures toward which others are indifferent. Conceivably, if this beer proposition were enacted by a real electorate, it might cause so many negative social consequences that another group might mobilize itself to put the issue on another ballot later.


In a few rare cases, a case can be made for partitioning states. However, it is a dangerous expedient, to be avoided except when there is mutual consent among all the participants -- including all minority groups. Since this degree of consensus is rare, political incentives will frequently be required to induce disaffected minorities to remain part of an integrated polity instead of demanding territorial independence. The incentives of conventional democratic electoral procedures turn ethnic groups in the other direction -- toward separatism, since they must expect to be permanently outvoted, whereas by seceding they could become a permanent majority in their locality. What is needed is a way of giving minorities a chance to win sometimes, with the full approval of the rest of the citizens. We have considered several proposed advances in democratic practice that offer minorities the possibility of attaining some of their ambitions, while also increasing the satisfaction of the wider electorate.

The use of functional (instead of territorial) constituencies is a democratic version of "corporatism" or "neo-corporatism" that is rather widely used in some Western European nations. Its advantage is that fairly small minority groups could be represented in the legislature, and each would be guaranteed a right to place one proposal before the electorate in the form of a referendum proposition. This incentive would diminish the urgency to minority groups of having their own separate nation states. Moreover, if (as many theorists have argued) ethnic identity will be salient only for a limited historical period, then it is important to define constituencies that will allow minority groups to express their concerns on a voluntary, changeable basis. It is a mistake to build permanent political entities that assign territory to particular ethnic groups, since minorities will still be found inside almost any boundaries that could be drawn. Besides, the longer-term trend is for more of the world's problems to be transnational in scope, which calls for polities that are more, not less, inclusive. The challenge at this historical moment is to find ways of satisfying local interests and of protecting local cultures without slicing the map into smaller units.

While most electoral theorists appreciate the value of functional constituencies, some of them are wary of giving up the territorial basis entirely, and their reasoning should be taken into account. Thus Andrew Reeve and Alan Ware, having discounted as specious a number of justifications for territorial subunits, submit that "it is important to retain structures around which potential opposition can mobilize. Local party organizations, centred on territorially-defined Parliamentary constituencies, constitute one of those structures." There is merit to this point, and it would be a mistake to take away all the functions of parties. In a parliamentary system, the administrative branch of the government is formed on the basis of the number of seats that each party wins. The political parties in Britain or Canada would lose their raison d'etre if constituencies were defined entirely on a functional basis.

For these reasons, the executive leadership should be elected separately through candidacy in parties. Functional constituencies could elect the legislature while territorial constituencies elect the president. Indeed, a plausible case can be made for retaining territorial constituencies in one house of a bicameral legislature. This would allow parties to continue to mobilize opposition against interest groups, and thereby overcome the problem of allowing national politics dominated by single-issue campaigns.

This arrangement would raise a number of other important issues that have been discussed in many other places, but here -- notably the question of proportional representation of parties. (e.g. Reeve and Ware, 1992: 69-93)

The three proposals here, taken together, offer new hope for minorities who are otherwise disempowered in their own polities. If these initiatives toward greater self-determination are to be effective in forestalling secessionist movements, they must be undertaken well in advance of any nationalistic conflict. By the time partition is being promoted, it is probably too late for these innovations to reverse the tide.

The proposals are discussed here with reference to nation states, but it is predictable that humanity is progressing beyond the sovereign nation state toward an international system of governance. There are many ways of approaching world government, the most likely one being a federation of nation states evolving out of the present United Nations. Among the many reasons for concern about such a federal system, two deserve special attention. First, a single world polity would concentrate power in a few hands, rather than dispersing it among many, as pluralist theory recommends. Every concentration of political power has to be regarded with suspicion, since it offers new opportunities for tyranny. Second, a federal system becomes less and less democratic, as it expands to include larger units. An individual citizen would have extremely little influence over the top levels of a world government.

For both of these reasons, it is desirable to implement a world government as a set of regimes regulating distinct functions (e.g. the world's postal system, its nonproliferation regime, the Law of the Sea) that are not tightly integrated into one political entity, but decentralized loci of power. Moreover, it is important to devise new ways of providing direct influence by individual citizens into decision-making on topics of concern to them. A global association, even if voluntary in nature, might acquire considerable authority in representing the concerns of citizens to the decision-makers at the top levels of all the aforementioned "regimes," as well as to the emerging federal system of nation-states. The most effective way to organize such a voluntary, transnational assembly of citizens is to use the three innovations that have been proposed here. (Spencer, 1991)

Unfortunately, as mentioned at the outset, electoral innovations are rarely adopted. There are some valid reasons for conservatism in such a matter. Decision-making procedures in a nation-state are so fateful that it is often better to adhere to flawed ones than to adopt "improvements" that are untested. One cannot expect a set of proposals such as those presented here to be accepted by existing states. However, non-governmental organizations can use some of these ideas. If such experimental approaches do, as expected, advance democracy and empower both minorities and majorities, nation states or inter-governmental bodies may subsequently adopt them.


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[1]Trends in the direction of this system -- called "neocorporatism" or "liberalism" -- are observable in certain European countries, where interest groups cooperate with government agencies in the formation and administration of policies. Concerns have been expressed that this approach might take over some of the usual functions of political parties, but this is not regularly the case. ( See Ware, 1986:126)
[2] The present proposal applies weighted voting only to a referendum, but the same principle is sometimes applied to elections of representatives. For example, in Switzerland in a ten-seat constituency, a voter may give a single vote to each of the ten candidates, or may divide his ten votes among three or four candidates from the same or different parties. (Urwin 1977:21) Since Switzerland is taken as the best example of a successful multi-national state with very little internal strife, it is worth paying particular attention to their innovative and highly democratic political structures, including weighted voting and the extensive use of the referendum, which seem to accommodate minorities extremely well.