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Popular vote Initiatives put parties in the spotlight

As the 2015 federal elections slowly draw near, political parties in Switzerland are submitting a growing number of initiatives for voters to decide on. The centre-right Christian Democratic Party threatens to launch two more initiatives next year, adding to an already long list from other parties. (RTS,

In recent years political parties have increasingly used people’s initiatives to better define their political agenda and to get in the media spotlight. Fourteen party-driven initiatives are due to be voted on.

Critics complain that parties are misusing initiatives and referendums as marketing instruments. Several observers and Swiss politicians also remain worried about the growing number of initiatives that play on fears and stereotypes.

The people’s initiative is one of the pillars of direct democracy in Switzerland. It allows citizens to bypass parliament and trigger a national vote on a topic that concerns them. But first they have to convince plenty of other people - in fact, gather 100,000 valid signatures within 18 months.

In the next stage, the proposal goes before parliament, which can accept the initiative, reject it, or make a counter-proposal. The people get to vote on it in any case. For an initiative to succeed, it has to carry both a majority of voters and a majority of the cantons. However, the chances of success are slim. Only 22 initiatives have been accepted in Swiss history.

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