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Formal disapproval
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Formal disapproval

Formal disapproval or official disapproval is common in politics and diplomacy. It is usually expressed as a "no" vote or abstention that may be wholly or mostly symbolic, to establish a position of a person, party or country on an issue, and disavow responsibility for the action or approval.

In some cases, e.g. representative recall, veto, disapproval voting systems, it is binding and has implications for the operation of a political or electoral system.

If it is accompanied by some qualitative and official written or spoken statement of why disapproval is required, it becomes a formal protest. Some disapproval voting systems let one put the reasons for one's vote on record. In representative democracy, this is done in the debates or the media to make the reasons for "no" votes or absentions clear to the public.

Table of contents
1 Official disapproval in online services
2 Disapproval of measures within a bureaucracy
3 Disapproval of states

Official disapproval in online services

Another well-known example, certainly to Internet users, is IP bans that forbid online participation from particular addresses, even if participants are anonymous. These bans are common at net dating services and net porn services where large numbers of unwanted trolls patroll.

It is also common to "score" or "rank" both users and their postings.

All services also have measures to revoke accounts. This can be a way to disavow the statements of a particular user. On Wikipedia, there is a limited form of deliberative democracy taking place on "ban pages", to summarize all the arguments for and against banning a user. Usually some disapproval voting is part of this process.

Disapproval of measures within a bureaucracy

At executive levels, where a formal division of powers exists, some disapproval measures usually also exist. For example, the President of the United States can veto legislation that was not passed with a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress.

In legislatures, such vetos also exist, such as the power of the United States Senate to disapprove of the President's appointments to the United States Supreme Court or other judges.

In general, however, disapproval within a bureaucracy or legislature is signalled with explicit formal protest or public position-taking, so a lack of action or an absention or "no" vote on a measure can be recognized as a disapproval, and thus as a final decision not amenable to a further refinement or presentation.

Disapproval of states

In very serious diplomatic issues between states, to recall the ambassador is an extremely strong form of formal disapproval. It is a pre-requisite to breaking off diplomatic relations entirely. These moves are the strongest formal disapproval short of a declaration of war.

Electoral reform advocates often characterize low election turnout or non-participation in the electoral system as formal disapproval of the process, the voting system in effect, of the political party options, or the state itself. In Iran in 2003, for instance, analysts pointed to a low turnout in that country's municipal elections as signs of waning support for the whole regime. However, this claim was thought to be politically motivated, as Iran was under intense political pressure at the time from the countries in which most of the analysts lived. An explicit election boycott is the way that formal disapproval of an entire process or jurisdiction is signalled to the world at large.

UN condemnation of a practice or state is widely understood as the strongest formal disapproval. The 2003 invasion of Iraq followed many such strong condemnations of Iraq, although neither the U.S., which spearheaded the invasion, nor any other country made a formal declaration of war. This situation has caused many to rethink the question of the implications of formal disapproval. However, the UN Security Council did not hold a formal vote on a new resolution endorsing it - France having signalled beforehand that it would veto. The US asserted that it was following up on several previous council resolutions.

UN condemnation of Zionism has been taken as a sign of formal disapproval of the state of Israel and a desire by many states to revoke the mandate it was granted in 1948. This has in turn had serious effects on peace process and caused many Israelis to conclude that the UN, as a body, opposes their state.

Ronald Reagan called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics an "evil empire" publicly, a breach of diplomatic protocol and a quite strong (if informal) disapproval that assisted in the breakup of that state in 1991.

Accordingly, one can conclude that formal disapproval is a quite serious matter when carried out among superpowers, and considering the foundation of states.

See also: diplomacy, nation-state