An update on the stories shaping the (direct) democratic world. This week: more voting in Georgia, and the upcoming ballots in Switzerland.This content was published on November 18, 2020 - 11:54
After the election is before the election!
This is true for all modern democracies, but especially true for the United States, where early voting is starting this November 18 in the state of Georgia. An election not only to determine two more seats in the US Senate but also one that will shape the future balance of power between president-elect Joe Biden and the US Congress.
The November 3 elections in the US, which featured thousands of federal, state-wide and local elections and ballots, put Georgia – carried by a Democrat presidential candidate for the first time since Bill Clinton in 1992 – in the spotlight around the world. The state’s highest election official, secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (a Republican) has been busy not only defending the voting process against some sore losers, but also against out-of-state groups involved in trying to move peopleExternal link into Georgia for the forthcoming Senate vote.
Fascinating and terrifying: the 2020 general election in the US showed democracy as its best – and worst.
In Switzerland – similar to other countries around the world – we followed each and every step of the race, also paying attention to the specific steps taken in America when it comes to following up on an vote. In contrast to Switzerland, where voting is frequent and somewhat unspectacular, democracy in America is full of drama – and it does have a judicial apparatus ready to function as an independent check on the often-partisan decisions at the ballot box. Swiss courts, meanwhile, have been notably reluctant in intervening in democratic agenda-setting and decision-making processes – with just one invalidated national referendum in more than 170 years.
But balance between democracy and the rule of law is akin to walking on a tightrope, as we will explore in a piece to be published on swissinfo.ch next week.
Sound and fury
Another typical feature of the noisy and vibrant American democracy, campaigning with flags and posters outside private homes, has also reached Switzerland this year: most prominently ahead of the November 29 popular vote on the “Responsible Business Initiative”, which proposes to put Swiss firms under domestic legal scrutiny for their global actions. But as we recently reported, while the campaign has managed to spark a form of “orange revolution” across the country, it’s not clear how effective it will be.
And with just a few days to go before the final initiative and referendum votes of 2020, the federal government has already announced the issues to be decided by the Swiss electorate in March next year: one people’s initiative and two popular referendums.
Citizens will have to make up their minds about a proposed ban on face coverings, a debate which in a pandemic takes on a very different tone than that intended by its rightwing initiators. The other issues to be decided are laws adopted by parliament on introducing an electronic ID in the country and a free trade agreement with one of the partners in the newly agreed RCEP-deal, Indonesia.
Clearly, at least in Switzerland, after the referendum is before the referendum!
Any tips or comments? Is there anything else you’d like to hear about from the world of direct democracy? Get in touch, Bruno KaufmannExternal link.