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Democratic question

Are people’s initiatives being exploited?

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The former federal chancellor wants political parties banned from launching popular initiatives. (SRF, swissinfo.ch)

Political parties in Switzerland are submitting a growing number of initiatives for voters to decide on. In recent years, parties have increasingly used people’s initiatives to better define their political agenda and to get in the media spotlight.

Critics complain that parties are misusing initiatives as marketing tools. In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, Annemarie Huber-Hotz, federal chancellor from 2000 to 2007, said she wanted this stopped. She pointed out that initiatives were not meant to be used in this way, but to give a voice to minority groups not represented in parliament.

Parties to the left and right have criticised her suggestion.

The people’s initiative is one of the pillars of direct democracy,

If a citizen can garner enough support for a proposal to change the law, by collecting 100,000 signatures, the initiative goes before parliament and then to the vote.

To succeed, it has to be accepted by a majority of voters and cantons.

But the chances of success are slim. Only 22 initiatives have been accepted in Swiss history.