AskDefine | Define initiative

Dictionary Definition

initiative adj : serving to set in motion; "the magazine's inaugural issue"; "the initiative phase in the negotiations"; "an initiatory step toward a treaty"; "his first (or maiden) speech in Congress"; "the liner's maiden voyage" [syn: inaugural, initiatory, first, maiden]


1 readiness to embark on bold new ventures [syn: enterprise, enterprisingness, go-ahead]
2 the first of a series of actions; "he memorized all the important chess openings" [syn: first step, opening move, opening]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A beginning; a first move.
  2. A new development; a fresh approach to something; a new way of dealing with a problem.
  3. The ability to act first or on one's own.


A beginning; a first move
A new development; a fresh approach to something; a new way of dealing with a problem
The ability to act first or on one's own
Translations to be checked

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

In political science, the initiative (also known as popular or citizen's initiative) provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote on a proposed statute, constitutional amendment, charter amendment or ordinance, or, in its minimal form, to simply oblige the executive or legislative bodies to consider the subject by submitting it to the order of the day. It is a form of direct democracy. It has also been referred to as "minority initiative," thus relating it to minority influence . Furthermore, it is, in itself, a politically neutral tool, despite its name which refers it to the "people." It can be used as well for conservative proposal as for progressive ends.
The initiative may take the form of either the direct or indirect initiative. Under the direct initiative, a measure is put directly to a vote after being submitted by a petition. Under the indirect initiative, a measure is first referred to the legislature, and then only put to a popular vote if not enacted by the legislature. In United States usage, a popular vote on a specific measure is referred to as a referendum only when originating with the legislature. Such a vote is known, when originating in the initiative process, as an "initiative," "ballot measure" or "proposition."

Brief history of popular initiative

The initiative is only available in a certain minority of jurisdictions. It was included in the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1891, permitting a certain number of citizens (currently 100,000) to make a request to amend a constitutional article, or even to introduce a new article into the constitution. Right of initiative is also used at the cantonal and communal level in Switzerland; many cantons allow initiatives to enact regular non-constitutional law, but the federal system does not. If the necessary number of supporters is reached, the initiative will be put to a referendum about two or three years later; the delay helps prevent short-term political moods to introduce themselves into the constitution. The parliament and government will both issue their official opinions on whether they recommend voting for or against the proposed amendment, and these opinions will be printed on the ballot. The parliament may also pass an alternative amendment suggestion which will also be included on the ballot; in this case, the voters cast two votes, one for whether or not they want an amendment, and one for which one they want, the original one from the initiative or the one introduced in parliament, in case a majority decides for amending. A citizen-proposed change to the constitution in Switzerland at the national level needs to achieve both a majority of the national popular vote and a majority of the canton-wide vote in more than half of the cantons to pass. The vast majority of national initiatives introduced since 1891 have failed to receive voter support.
Provision for the initiative was included in the 1922 constitution of the Irish Free State, but was hastily abolished when republicans organised a drive to instigate a vote that would abolish the Oath of Allegiance. The initiative also formed part of the 1920 constitution of Estonia.

Initiative in the United States

In the United States the initiative is in use, at the level of state government, in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and is also in common use at the local and city government level. The initiative has been recognized in the US since at least 1777 when provision was made for it by the first constitution of Georgia.
The modern U.S. system of initiative and referendum originated in the state of South Dakota. South Dakota adopted initiative and referendum in 1898 by a vote of 23,816 to 16,483. South Dakota is also the only state to have the idea develop on home soil without knowledge of the Swiss measure. Oregon was the second state to adopt, and did so in 1902, when the state's legislators adopted it by an overwhelming majority. The "Oregon System", as it was at first known, subsequently spread to many other states, and became one of the signature reforms of the Progressive Era (1890s-1920s). Well known U.S. initiatives include various measures adopted by voters in states such as Washington, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and Alaska. The first attempt to get National ballot initiatives occurred in 1907 when House Joint Resolution 44 was introduced by Rep. Elmer Fulton of Oklahoma. In 1977, both the Abourezk-Hatfield (National Voter Initiative) and Jagt Resolutions never got out of committee. Senator Mike Gravel (now a Presidential candidate) was part of that effort. Gravel since discovered a (controversial) method to get a new proposal, the National Initiative for Democracy, into the Constitution without asking Congress. Registered U.S. voters can now vote at to ratify the National Initiative, much as citizens—not the existing 13 State Legislatures—ratified the Constitution at the Constitutional conclusion.

Popular initiatives in the European Union

The rejected Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE) included a limited indirect initiative right (Article I-46(4)). The proposal was that 1,000,000 citizens, from a minimal numbers of different member states, could invite the executive body of the European Union (EU), the European Commission, to consider any proposal "on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Constitution." The precise mechanism had not been agreed upon. Critics underlined the weakness of this right of initiative, which did not ultimately entail any vote or referendum.
In any case, one can make a petition to the European Parliament


A restricted, local, indirect initiative was introduced on 28 March 2003 in the French Constitution in the frame of the decentralization laws (article 72-1, référendum d'initiative locale.) However, it is only the initiative to propose to the local assembly (collectivité territoriale) the inscription of a subject to the order of the day. The local assembly then takes the decision to submit, or not, the question to popular referendum.
initiative in Asturian: Iniciativa popular
initiative in German: Volksinitiative
initiative in Spanish: Iniciativa popular
initiative in French: Initiative populaire
initiative in Dutch: Bindend Referendum Op Volksinitiatief
initiative in Polish: Inicjatywa ludowa
initiative in Chinese: 創制

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

abecedarian, aboriginal, adventuresomeness, adventurousness, aggression, aggressiveness, alpha, ambition, ambitiousness, antenatal, autochthonous, bang, baptismal, beginning, breaking-in, budding, constitutional referendum, creative, dash, direct initiative, drive, dynamism, elan, elemental, elementary, embryonic, energy, enterprise, enterprisingness, facultative referendum, fetal, fire, first, first blush, first glance, first impression, first inning, first lap, first move, first round, first sight, first stage, first step, force, forcefulness, formative, foundational, fundamental, gambit, gestatory, get-up-and-get, get-up-and-go, getup, ginger, go, go-ahead, go-getting, go-to-itiveness, gumption, hustle, in embryo, in its infancy, in the bud, inaugural, inceptive, inchoate, inchoative, incipient, incunabular, indirect initiative, infant, infantile, initial, initiatory, introductive, introductory, inventive, kick, le premier pas, lead, leadership, mandate, mandatory referendum, nascent, natal, opening move, original, parturient, pep, pepper, piss and vinegar, pizzazz, plebiscite, plebiscitum, poop, postnatal, pregnant, prenatal, primal, primary, prime, primeval, primitive, primitiveness, primitivity, primogenial, procreative, punch, push, pushfulness, pushiness, pushingness, recall, referendum, resourcefulness, rudimental, rudimentary, snap, spirit, spunk, starch, statutory referendum, thrust, up-and-comingness, ur, venturesomeness, venturousness, verve, vigor, vim, warming-up, zing, zip
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