DEMOCRACY IN ACTION? 10 Weird Examples Of The Swiss Referendum System In Action

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Photo: AP Images

Switzerland is the only country in Europe that practices direct democracy: citizens get to vote on important changes to the constitution, rather than leaving it up to the politicians and government. What’s more, citizens can even propose constitutional amendments themselves, which are then voted on by the rest of the country.It’s a system that many find attractive, and politicians perhaps see it as a route out of hard decisions — Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged a French future based more around referendums, for example.

So what have the Swiss voted on? Let’s take a look.

Date: November 26, 1989

Outcome: Rejected

The initiative wanted Switzerland to be a country with no army (through a constitutional amendment), and make it law that neither the nation, nor cantons, municipalities, and private individuals could train or keep military forces.

(Source)

Date: September 26, 1993

Outcome: Accepted

The proposal wanted to amend the federal constitution to officially declare August 1 a national holiday, perhaps to celebrate the formation of the Old Swiss Confederation in 1291.

(Source)

Date: May 18, 2003

Outcome: Rejected

The referendum asked that for one Sunday per season, private cars be banned from all public places, including roads and national highways, from 4 a.m. to midnight.

(Source)

Date: February 24, 2008

Outcome: Rejected

The initiative wanted to ban military exercises in tourist destinations in times of peace.

(Source)

Date: June 1, 2008

Outcome: Rejected

Had the referendum been successful, it would have given the right to decide on the naturalization of foreign citizens through an anonymous popular vote in local municipalities, rather than allowing the government to carry out due legal procedures, Spiegel Online reports.

(Source)

Date: June 1, 2008

Outcome: Rejected

The proposal sought to ban politicians and officials from engaging in 'propaganda' activities like media appearances, and participation in public information events, as well as supporting or financing information campaigns and material before referendums, Swiss Info reports.

(Source)

Date: November 29, 2009

Outcome: Accepted

The referendum has led to a law that disallows the construction of new minarets (towers often seen on Islamic architecture), without retroactive effect on four existing Swiss minarets. This, despite the government urging citizens to vote against the ban, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. After the vote, the government said it respected the people's decision.

Switzerland is home to about 400,000 Muslims.

(Source)

Date: March 11, 2012

Outcome: TBD

The organisations that have floated the initiative -- The Franz Weber Foundation and Helvetia Nostra -- are worried about the negative effect on the land caused by the relentless construction and urbanization all over the country.

They say it is ruining Switzerland's natural beauty and consequently, her tourism industry's potential. But opponents say it would lead to job losses.

(Source)

Date: March 11, 2012

Outcome: TBD

The proposal, introduced by Travail Suisse, aims to increase the vacation entitlement of Swiss employees from four weeks a year to six, saying it will allay work stress. But opponents say it would lead to higher labour costs.

(Source)

Date: March 11, 2012

Outcome: TBD

Certain organisations believe that the price of books needs to be regulated so that they can be more affordable for everyone. Opponents say a single price would harm small booksellers.

(Source)

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