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wecollect.ch Swiss signature-gathering platform marks debut year

For the past year, the wecollect.ch platform has been collecting online signatures for initiatives and referendums, the basic instruments of Swiss direct democracy. The founder is pleased with its success but annoyed by authorities' lack of enthusiasm for it.

"At 100,000, I would have already been happy, but 140,000 is a fantastic result, even if almost half of these signatures came in support of the initiative for paternity leave," said Daniel Graf, co-founder of wecollect.ch. More than 40% of the signatures for the the paternity leave proposal so far (more than 59,500) have come via the online platform.

The signature-gathering website's philosophy is especially oriented around progressive social issues such as strengthening paternity leave and strong nursing care, ending the sale of weapons abroad and increasing transparency for party financing.

Wecollect.ch is therefore not used by the conservative-right Swiss People's Party, which nevertheless makes abundant use of instruments of direct democracy. Graf notes, however, that the People's Party recently copied some elements of his platform's strategy, so he would not be surprised if they rolled out something similar in the future.

Digital cantonal assembly

Graf is convinced that in ten to 15 years, most signatures will be collected on smartphones. He considers it a "scandal" that the Swiss government recently decided to simultaneously push e-voting platforms while stopping work on e-collecting.

"Democracy is a game of confidence," Graf says, "and Swiss democracy enjoys a high, high level of confidence. This includes accepting that not everything can be 100% safe. In addition, it should not be forgotten that in the case of collections, the validity of the signatures is then checked anyway, so we have double security."

Graf's fundamental goal is making the exercise of democracy simpler (and cheaper). 

"We are only at the beginning," he says.