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Local democracy Encouraging citizen participation in politics

Most of Switzerland's 2,350 municipalities hold regular town hall assemblies. The pictures shows participants in Vals leaving the room - a converted gym - at the end of a meeting 


The governmant has called on parliament to ratify a Council of Europe agreement bolstering direct democracy at a local level.

The additional protocol of the European charter on local self-governmentexternal link aims to enshrine legal guarantees for citizens to participate in local politics, including local elections or access to legal documents, according to a justice ministry statement on Wednesday.

The protocol, which came into force in 2012, also requires measures be taken to ensure transparency and independence of the local authorities.

The government says no additional steps are necessary as Switzerland already conforms to the regulations of participatory democracies as stated in the convention.

“By adhering to the additional protocol, Switzerland contributes to the promotion of direct democracy at an international level,” the statement said.

The proposal for a bill was submitted to a consultation procedure in June 2015. A majority of respondents, notably cantons, municipalities and cities, came out in favour of ratification.

Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, there are regular ballot box votes on local and cantonal issues.

Some 80% of the 2,350 municipalities still have town hall meetings, and citizens in two of the country’s 26 cantons – Appenzell Inner Rhodes and Glarus – hold open-air assemblies to take political decisions.

Urs Geiser,

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