Monday, October 19, 2015

In Switzerland, All the Political Power Belongs to the People

Visitors walk next to a sign during a doors open day at 
a sex drive-in in the city of Zurich which local authorities 
say will enable them to keep closer tabs on prostitution.
Getty Images
No bill can become law until approved in a referendum
When the Swiss go to the polls Sunday to elect a new parliament, it will be a familiar trudge. That’s because citizens regularly are asked to approve a wide array of legislation, ranging from housing for sex workers in Zurich to approval of assisted suicide in nursing homes.
A man crosses a box on a ballot paper in Lausanne 
as two popular initiatives, a tax exemption for family 
allowances and an energy tax were rejected by Swiss 
citizens on March 8, 2015. Getty Images
The active role the Swiss play in enacting laws may seem strange in the United States and other nations where elected officials make decisions on behalf of their constituents. But not in Switzerland, where a centuries-old tradition of direct democracy gives people — rather than lawmakers — the power to shape local and national policies.
That power of the people explains why the 246 members of parliament, who will be elected to four-year terms, aren't career politicians. The public has the final word to change laws or create new ones through frequent referendums.
A woman casts her ballot during a referendum on 
May 18, 2014 in Bulle, western Switzerland. Getty Images
“Switzerland’s political system is exceptional when compared to other democracies,” said Adrian Ritz of the Center of Competence for Public Management at the University of Bern.
No measure can become a law here until citizens approve it. Any constitutional change proposed by the parliament, for instance, must be approved in a referendum.
On average, the Swiss vote four times a year on several issues at a time — more often than citizens of any other nation.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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