Reporters have been asking this question: Is Penanti another referendum?
My take is this: elections become a referendum only when a decision on personnel transform into a decision on issue.
In other words, it must be dominated by a single issue, and arguably one of national significance.
While real referendums can have more than one question on the ballot, a metaphorical referendum cannot. If you can interpret the outcome in many ways, you can’t call it a referendum.
However, referendum or not, by-elections are “mid-term” elections, like “mid-term examinations”. They can always serve as a barometer of the popular mood even if they dont begin as a referendum.
Just dont think we should over-use certain words.