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Voters reject change to referendum system

Voting in Switzerland: a regular and complex process Keystone

Swiss voters on Sunday rejected an initiative for a "constructive referendum", which was aimed at giving the electorate a greater say in nationwide ballots.

The vote against the initiative was by a 2-1 margin.

The Swiss currently have the option of either rejecting or accepting the text of a referendum in full.

The initiative on a “constructive referendum”, launched by centre-left parties in 1995, would have allowed the electorate the option of approving or turning down parts of a proposal.

Opponents of the proposal argued that such a reform would complicate the referendum system, and that voters would find it difficult to understand the issues at stake.

Two cantons, Berne and Nidwalden, have already introduced the constructive referendum for cantonal votes.

But the federal government, along with parliament and three of the four governing parties opposed such changes at a national level. The main criticism was that it would have weakened the spirit of consensus in politics and made it harder to find negotiated and balanced solutions.

In Switzerland, voters elect representatives to both houses of parliament in a similar way to most western democracies.

But under the country’s system of direct democracy voters can call for a nationwide vote on an issue in two ways: either by challenging parliament on an issue by collecting a minimum of 50,000 signatures to force a referendum; or they can also force a nationwide vote on changing the constitution – a “people’s initiative” – by collecting 100,000 signatures.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR