Can the people also get it wrong?

Since the Yes vote in the referendum on the initiative against mass immigration in February, there has been a dizzying flurry of activity amongst the Swiss government, Parliament, the political parties and various experts. The issue at the crux of it all: how can the initiative against mass immigration be implemented without causing significant damage to Switzerland’s economy and image? The response from the winners of the referendum on 9 February is that it must be implemented “systematically”. The EU will yield to Switzerland’s diktat if the matter is handled skilfully enough, they are arguing. Rather than systematically, the initiative must be implemented “intelligently”, many people are saying, particularly those in the centre of the political spectrum. However, nobody will explain exactly what they mean by “intelligently”. It seems they are relying on hoping and praying. Finally, there is the group that is convinced that the SVP initiative cannot be implemented without the termination of the bilateral agreements with the EU. Two things are clear in this case: this would be extremely awkward for Switzerland and the decision would have to be made by the Swiss people.

The French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville warned in his analysis of American democracy in 1835 against the “tyranny of the majority”. The political and referendum situation in Switzerland increasingly points to a tyranny of the minority. This is because the majority at the ballot box does not represent the majority of the Swiss people by a long stretch when we take the turnout into account.

A survey conducted by the Bernese research institute GfS in September showed that 58 percent of Swiss people would prioritise the bilateral agreements over the mass immigration initiative. This result suggests that a majority of the people did not really understand what the consequences of the decision would be before the referendum. It can also be concluded from this that a party with plenty of funding and a well-oiled machine supporting it can exploit democracy for its own ends in a referendum campaign.

One thing is for sure and that is that Switzerland is facing a further referendum campaign along similar lines. “Swiss law takes precedence over foreign law” is the title of the popular initiative. This was agreed by the SVP delegates on 25 October. The objective is to put national law above international law and to pull out of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

As a result, Switzerland’s position in Europe and in the international community will undoubtedly be a key issue during the 2015 election year. This raises a number of questions. Is Switzerland a special case? Does it merit special treatment because it is so unique? But also: Are referendum decisions always prudent? Do the people never make mistakes?

An in-depth look at the election year, the top issues and the party positions can be found from page 12.

Barbara Engel

Comments (5)
  • Barry
    Barry at 14.12.2014
    I holiday in Switzerland every year. It is the most wonderful country on earth. The natural environment is perfect, the food is fresh and of the highest quality, transport is readily available and reliable, and the Swiss people generally are a pleasure to deal with.

    The most wonderful thing of all about Switzerland is that, through direct democracy, the Swiss have the power to stop government from destroying their society, and that is why Switzerland is the envy of the world. Naturally, there will be an element within Swiss society who resent the fact that they cannot force their views on everyone else, but, fortunately, the Swiss democratic system prevents this from happening. In contrast, in my home country, Australia, we truly have a 'tyranny of the minority'. The media, academia, the public service and the institutions of the country are predominantly leftist and they tightly control the political agenda, ensuring ordinary people have little or no say in national policy. As a consequence, our society and our economy are in decline. Some examples of this are:

    - successive government have used mass immigration to bring large amounts of new money into the economy to boost economic growth. Mass immigration boosts demand for real estate and consumer goods and this creates the illusion of prosperity. This has been done without regard for the infrastructure problems it causes in the medium to long term or for the social tensions, crime and violence, including terrorism, it brings into the country. It should be emphasised that governments have done this deliberately for the sole purpose of giving the economy a quick, artificial boost to help them win an election. We have no power to stop this from happening as all the major parties are practising this deception.

    - governments are giving foreigners pretty much a free hand to buy real estate in Australia. Where restrictions apply, these can be circumvented with ease. This forces prices up for locals and reduces the rental stock. All political parties do it as it is a sneaky way of bringing a lot of cash into the country quickly, again to create the illusion of economic prosperity. Again, we have no power to change this.

    - successive governments have created poverty by inducing people into welfare dependency. One example of this is that in a country of around 23 million people, we have 800,000 people on a disability pension at a cost of $17 billion a year to the taxpayer. Our welfare system has given us an entrenched underclass of angry marginalised people. One consequence of this has been an explosion in anti-social behaviour. For example, when I was a child we used to holiday every Christmas at a beach resort known as the Gold Coast. Every evening the whole family would go for a walk along the beach to enjoy the cool night air. The only risk was that of tripping over the fishing lines of the many fisherman on the beach. Come forward to today and you risk being bashed and robbed if you walk on the beach at night. Perhaps worse, the drunks, drug addicts and troublemakers bury broken glass and syringes on the beach in the hope of injuring someone. It is such a serious problem that many local governments now run sieves across the beaches very early in the morning before people come out to use them.

    So, enjoy what you have and be thankful that you have the power to stop politicians from making self-serving decisions that cause great harm to your country.
    Show Translation
  • Barry
    Barry at 16.12.2014
    Tragically, less than a day after I wrote the preceding response a hostage situation in Sydney ended with the death of three people. Ironically, it occurred in a shop selling Swiss products.

    Read the offenders history and be thankful that you in Switzerland have the power to stop your government from ruining your society.
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  • Stefanie Sollberger
    Stefanie Sollberger at 17.12.2014
    Richtig und falsch sind keine absoluten Begriffe, sie stehen immer in Bezug zu etwas, besonders auch zur eigenen Weltanschauung. Sich irren oder Recht haben ebenso. Regierungsentscheid, Parlamentsentscheid oder Volksentscheid, keiner ist a priori besser oder schlechter. In unserem System hat eben der Volksentscheid das höchste Gewicht. Und auch ein solcher kann mit einem erneuten Volksentscheid abgeändert werden. Insgesamt ist die Schweiz damit nicht schlecht gefahren. Und wer sein Stimmrecht nicht gebraucht, tut damit kund, dass ihm die Vorlage egal ist und er sowohl mit Annahme wie Ablehnung gut leben kann. Auch diese Haltung sei erlaubt. Es ist zwar nachvollziehbar, dass sich die Regierung ärgert, wenn das Volk ihr nicht folgt, aber dass immer genau dann auch die Medien neuerdings eine Systemkrise ausrufen, finde ich wenig reflektiert. Warum kann sich da die Schweizer Revue nicht wohltuend vom Mainstream-Geschrei abheben?
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  • André Dünner
    André Dünner at 20.12.2014
    Über einen längeren Zeitabschnitt hinweg habe und hatte ich mit professionell sehr hochstehenden Menschen zu tun (gehabt). Es war zum Teil erschütternd zu hören was zum Ausdruck gebracht wurde.

    "Wir wüssten eigentlich welches Massnahmen eingeleitet sein sollten um aus kritischen Situationen führen zu können. Stattdessen sind wir eingekesselt von Halbprofessionellen (lasse mal die Berufsbezeichnung weg) welche sich von voreingenommenen Gremien zu Höchstpreisen beraten lassen.

    So fallen denn auch die Resultate aus."

    Dabei wird doch immer wieder zum Ausdruck gebracht dass Fachleutemangel herrscht. Denke mir mal meine Sache und höre lieber diesen Profis zu als mich von Massengeschrei ablenken zu lassen.

    Eines ist noch zu sagen. Anstelle bei Top-Kaderlöhnen und Pensionen oder Bonis, wäre es vielleicht einmal angebracht eine Leistungsvergütung im Sinne von (%) Prozenten der erreichten Ziele auf eine Zeitspanne verteilt zu entrichten. Wer total daneben entscheidet hat eben das totale Minimum einer Maximalgrutschrift zu erwarten.

    Wo dabei die Gerechtigkeit liegt? Anstelle von einem Minimum erhält die/der Normalangestellte meist den Rausschmiss. An anderer Stelle erhalten Personen einen Sitz in einem Vorstand.
    Sind also beruflich aktiv und zusätzlich kommt eine Pension ins Haus.

    Unter Demokratie verstehe ich etwas anderes als das was in "direkt" Bezeichnung findet. Zur Erklärung einer Denkweise ist zu bemerken das weder als Kapitalist noch als Komunist gewertet als auch gewirkt werden sollte. Sprechen wir lieber von materiealistisch. Denn aus materiellen Dingen besteht jedes Lebewesen wie auch jeder Gegenstand. Wobei das geistige übergeordneten Rang behält.

    Das Lebende demzufolge hat gegenüber dem Materiellen eine Verantwortung zu tragen. Diese wird zu oft nicht gelebt, Oder dann ausgehebelt und umgangen.

    Zuvor gemachte Kommentare respektierend, möchte ich zum Ausdruck bringen, dass die Schweiz an gewissen Stellen ein sehr schönes Land ist. Zu schön, als irgendwelchen Ideologien zum Opfer fallen zu lassen.
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  • Erwin Balli-Ramos
    Erwin Balli-Ramos at 29.12.2014
    A proposito Demokratie

    - Jemand, der in der 6.Klasse die Primarschule abgeschlossen hat

    - Jemand, der seine politische Einstellung aus der Sensationspresse,
    oder schlimmer noch aus der hirnrissigen Polemik eines Politikers

    Show Translation

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