Swiss voters say no to yet more referendums

GENEVA - Swiss voters decided on Sunday that they have enough democracy already, overwhelmingly rejecting a proposal to hold more referendums on international treaties.

By (AP)

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Published: Sun 17 Jun 2012, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:44 AM

A nationalist group in the already referendum-happy Alpine republic wanted voters to have an automatic say every time their government signs an important international agreement.

However, not one of the country’s 26 cantons, or states, voted in favor of more referendums in Sunday’s referendum, and 75.2 percent of voters rejected the plan. Such proposals need a majority of both voters and cantons to pass.

Most major parties opposed the measure, saying it could gridlock Swiss democracy with constant ballot calls — as one pre-vote poster put it, “too much democracy kills democracy.” Switzerland already holds about half a dozen national referendums each year as well as local ones.

The Action for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland group, which made the proposal, said it wanted referendums whenever Switzerland submits to a foreign law or court — particularly if it involves the European Union. Switzerland does not belong to the 27-nation bloc but is surrounded by it.

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party, the only major party backing the plan, said Sunday’s rejection “was predictable given the opponents’ massive campaign of fear.”

As things stand, all it takes is 50,000 signatures to force a national vote on a new law or treaty in Switzerland, a country of more than 7 million people. The bar is higher — 100,000 signatures — if grassroots groups want to propose completely new legislation, but such measures also are voted on frequently and sometimes succeed.

Turnout in Swiss referendums rarely exceeds 40 percent. On Sunday, it was 37.8 percent.

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