David cameron WPA Pool/Pool

L’ennemi intérieur du Royaume-Uni

PRINCETON – La démocratie est partout confrontée à de sérieux défis. Les États-Unis vivent la campagne des élections primaires la plus étrange de mémoire d’homme, avec des outsiders populistes qui menacent de l’emporter sur les candidats des partis. Le Brésil est paralysé par une crise constitutionnelle. Les Européens attribuent leur malaise à un déficit démocratique au sein de l’Union européenne. Et au Royaume-Uni, la vision d’une souveraineté nationale retrouvée alimente la campagne en faveur d’une sortie de l’UE.

Mais les tentatives faites pour restaurer le « pouvoir du peuple » peuvent facilement dresser les citoyens les uns contre les autres. Le référendum, qui doit se tenir le 23 juin prochain, sur le maintien ou non du Royaume-Uni au sein de l’UE en est un parfait exemple.

Les théoriciens traditionalistes de la démocratie représentative sont profondément sceptiques quant à la démocratie directe. Les référendums, en particulier, comportent des risques sérieux. En ramenant une question complexe à un choix binaire, ceux-ci prennent une dimension existentielle et peuvent être à l’origine de profondes divisions à long terme. C’est précisément ce qui est en train de se produire au Royaume-Uni aujourd’hui.

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