New referendum governance structure for Polkadot

Polkadot, the eleventh largest cryptocurrency, with a market capitalization of over $7 billion, could be subject to an overhaul of the entire governance system.


The proposal, known as Gov2 during its development, can be broadly summarized as striving to increase both the decentralization and efficiency of network decision-making. To do this, referendums will be the only first-class decision-making mechanism. This will contrast with the current form of governance in that many decisions can be made simultaneously.

With the system in place for a few years, a technocratic committee managed issues such as timelines; An elected executive “government” managed parameters, administration, and spending proposals; For everything else, a general voting system was put in place, with long-term stakeholders rewarded with increased influence.

Current disadvantages

This current system has served to limit the number of decisions taken at the same time, given the unique “all or nothing” referendum model – that is, all referendums have the maximum power. Partly because of this, there can only be one voted referendum at a time and those votes last for several weeks by default. Moreover, the elected executive is a centralized body and not anonymous, so it can be pressured in one way or another.

However, the current system also offers functionality that will not be changed here. For example, 50% of the total stake in the system should, if they have sufficient persuasiveness in their view, be able to eventually command the future of the system. Greater weight will also be given to those who wish to lock their tokens in the system longer.

Referendum mechanism

Let’s see how a referendum works, given that the new network may soon use them.

When a referendum is initially created, it is immediately possible for anyone in the community to vote. However, it is not in a state where it can be terminated, or otherwise have its votes counted, approved and enacted summarily. Instead, referendums must meet a number of criteria before moving to a state known as Decision. As long as they are not in this state, the points remain undecided.

The criteria to be fulfilled are threefold: firstly, all referendums have a preparation period. This is an amount of time that must have elapsed after the proposal before the decision can begin, providing a notice period that mitigates the possibility of “decision sniping”, where an attacker controlling a substantial amount of power to vote may seek to pass a proposal soon after it has been proposed, leaving the entire electoral population no time to think it over and vote.

Second, there must be room for decision. All tracks have their own limit on the number of referendums that can be decided simultaneously. The more powerful the origins allowed on the track, the lower this limit.

Finally, a filing of decision must be paid to mitigate spam or system bloat.

Proposals that are not approved after 28 days are considered rejected by default. At this point, the decision deposit can be refunded.


Of course, there are cases where a proposal put to the vote turns out to contain a problem. In Gov2 there is a special operation to intervene in this way called cancelation. This operation immediately rejects an ongoing referendum regardless of its status.

Cancellation is itself a governance operation that must be voted on by the network to be executed. This poses a possible timing problem, and to be useful, the adoption of a cancellation proposal must be much faster than any possible objective proposal adopted. As such, Cancel comes with its own Origin and Lead, which has low turnaround and approval/support curves with slightly sharper reductions in their pass thresholds.

It’s a good way to balance the fear of centralization with the realities of efficiency.


Of course, this is all just a suggestion. Nevertheless, Gov2 has some very interesting aspects and it will be interesting to see how it ends. Bear markets are both a time to build and a time to improve existing infrastructure, so it’s promising to see proposals like these whether they end up going through or not.

Gov2 is expected to launch on Kusama imminently, after a final professional audit of its code. After a test period on Kusama, a proposal will then be submitted to the Polkadot network for a vote.

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New referendum governance structure for Polkadot

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