Direct democracy can be a way for young people to make their voices heard. High-school student Marie Lingl for one is convinced of this.
The 17 year-old is one of the new voices of the Swiss expat community living which gave birth to the Youth Parliament of the Swiss Abroad (YPSA). In a series of interviews, swissinfo.ch sought out the views of members of the parliament's committee.
swissinfo.ch: What do you want to achieve as a member of the new youth parliament of the Swiss abroad – first of all in Switzerland, and second in your country of residence?
Marie Lingl: By taking part in the Youth Parliament of the Swiss Abroad, I wish to assert my Swiss identity.
I want to feel even closer to my home country by creating ties with young Swiss who have the same interests as I, and to do something really different.
I'll soon be of voting age, and hope to become active in Swiss politics and be instrumental in improving our status. The YPSA can help young Swiss living in France in particular to get interested in Swiss politics, which is a political model unknown here.
swissinfo.ch: What does direct democracy look like in your country of residence? Are there options that you especially appreciate? And ones that you miss having?
M.L.: Democracy in France is not direct but representative. Some people feel powerless, complain of a lack of dynamism, and would like to vote on laws directly.
There are also no people’s initiatives. However, it is easy to be critical when you have always lived in a democracy where freedom and choice are fundamental values.
swissinfo.ch: In most countries young people vote less often than people of other age groups. Isn’t direct democracy a prime agent for young people to communicate their political needs and ideas?
M.L.: Direct democracy enables young people to make their voices heard and thus help shape future politics. Young people can bring their ideas and opinions to the fore through direct democracy.
In France, many young people do not see the point of turning out to vote, as they think nothing will ever change.
What's more, there is little effort to nurture a political culture; people should be encouraged to be politically active in daily life from the earliest age.
Too often, we leave the decisions to adults, and we're all just used to this situation.
swissinfo.ch: Since the attacks in Paris, Europe has been obsessed with the terrorism of the Islamic State group. Is the fight against Islamic extremists, which has led to the restriction of individual freedoms, a danger for democracies?
One possible danger is the spread of fear. Fear makes people lose self-control and causes unexpected and often harmful reactions. Let's hope that the solidarity we can see around us today will prevail.
Platform for young Swiss expats
The youth parliament of the Swiss Abroad was set up only a few months ago and is still in its infancy.
It’s primarily an online platform which brings together the about 350 members across the world for debates and other exchanges of ideas via social media and skype.
swissinfo.ch interviewed 11 young Swiss expatriates who are leading members of the youth parliament. Our questions focus on issues of participatory citizenship in their countries of residence and in Switzerland.
Translated from French by Julia Bassam