Direct Democracy in Switzerland: Trends, Challenges and the Quest for Solutions
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Direct democracy is deeply rooted in Switzerland. It is based on the high level of confidence in citizens encapsulated in the principle in dubio pro populo—in case of doubt, consult the people. There are two main instruments of direct democracy in Switzerland: popular initiatives and referendums. They are based on a double majority—a majority of votes and a majority of cantons. The Federal Constitution of 18 April 1999 is used as an instrument enabling the people to participate in the political process. One of the main objectives is to show the difficulty in making direct democracy comply with International Law and the Rule of Law. Popular initiatives have evolved from instruments of political opposition—favourable to minority opinions—to divisive tools used by political parties such as the Eurosceptic, xenophobic and populist Swiss people’s party for electoral purposes. Thus the 9 February 2014 popular initiative limiting immigration from the European Union through quotas and national preferences—approved by 50.3 % of the votes—challenges Switzerland’s commitments towards the European Union.
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