Swiss vote to extend direct democracy

Anon Anon inprekorr at
Sun Feb 9 19:08:49 MST 2003

Swiss vote to extend direct democracy
By Clare Nullis in Geneva
10 February 2003

The Swiss people – world record holders in the number
of ballots they stage – voted yesterday to extend
their direct democracy even further.

In a national referendum, 70.3 per cent, or 934,264
people, voted in favour of two proposed reforms, which
would in effect give the electorate more say over
international treaties and on changing domestic laws.

The four-party coalition government had urged voters
to accept the changes. Turn-out was only 28 per cent.
On issues deemed to be of national importance,
participation is higher – 58 per cent took part in
last March's vote in favour of United Nations

Switzerland, with its 4.7 million electorate, accounts
for an estimated half the referendum ballots
worldwide. Under its direct-democracy rules, 100,000
signatures on a petition are enough to prompt a
referendum to introduce a constitutional amendment,
and 50,000 signatures can challenge a proposed
government decree. The peoplevote about three times a
year on subjects ranging from hospital costs to asylum
laws, in addition to local votes on, for example,
building schools and financing road extensions.

The next referendum on 18 May featuresnine different
issues, including rents, army reforms, civil
protection, car-free Sundays, disabled rights and a
halt to nuclear power.

The slight modifications would improve the
direct-democracy system, which was introduced in 1848.
People will be given the automatic right to challenge
treaties signed between Switzerland and other
countries. In practice this is not likely to make a
big difference because all important agreements are
already subject to a referendum, but the government
backs the principle. "Foreign policy would thus be
more firmly anchored in our democratic system," it

The other reform would mean the requisite number of
signatures on a petition could introduce laws, not
just constitutional amendments.(AP)

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