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2007 was year of people power

Political parties and organisations took full advantage of Switzerland's unique system of direct democracy in 2007, launching 11 people's initiatives.

Groups began collecting signatures, among other things, to limit sales of four-wheel drive vehicles, deport relatives of foreign residents committing crimes and to ban minarets.

It was the highest number of initiatives since 1998 when nearly twice as many were started.

Groups have 18 months to collect at least 100,000 signatures to force a vote on an issue. But the foreigner deportation scheme as well as a plan by the Green party to reduce Switzerland's greenhouse gas emissions has already surpassed the minimum requirement.

Another initiative expected to surmount the 100,000 signature hurdle calls for army-issue firearms to be kept for safekeeping in arsenals instead of in militia soldiers' homes, as is the current practice.

Supporters of the campaign say army weapons are used too often in incidents of domestic violence, often with fatal results.

No less than three initiatives were started to make home ownership more attractive in a country where the majority of residents live in rented accommodation. The supporters of these campaigns are up against environmental groups, which want to convince voters to limit urban sprawl.

And music to the ears of parents who believe their children could be budding Beethovens is a plan to improve the quality of music lessons in schools.

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