……as Mr. Punch used to say.
Unknown to a lot of people the Swiss have the third of four referendums to be held this year, on 25th September; along with elections which are also taking place in many cantons and communes across the country.
The referendums being held contain:
A proposal to reduce Switzerland’s carbon footprint by promoting a sustainable economy, a proposal which has seen a substantial drop in support ahead of a nationwide vote. Pollsters expect the initiative to fail at the ballot box;
Another decision involves what is being termed: ‘state snooping’. The political left think so, but parliament and the government say the agency needs more powers to prevent terrorism and the trade in arms. The legal amendment would give the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) the right not only to tap phone lines but also to survey e-mails, access computer systems abroad and bug private apartments. Voters have the final say;
The Swiss will also be voting on a people’s initiative calling for an increase in payments from the state retirement fund, but questions are being asked about whether the system can support an additional CHF4 billion ($4 billion) annually. The initiative calls for a 10% increase in state old-age pension benefits provided to all retirees through the so-called ‘first pillar’ in a three-pillar retirement system. This increase is foreseen to counteract the decrease in occupational pension payments from the second pillar, which has partially resulted from lower or even negative interest paid on occupational pension fund investments. The Swiss Constitution stipulates that a usual standard of living must be guaranteed to retirees through pension payments from the first pillar (social insurance) and the second pillar (occupational pensions) – again voters have the final say
The important point to note in this referendum is that on all three matters it is the Swiss people who will decide, whereas in the United Kingdom such decisions are arbitrarily made by our politicians.
However that is not the point of this article. On the last evening of our visit to Switzerland Helen and I were invited to an evening of ‘wine and nibbles’ by our hosts and invariably discussion turned to the reason for our visit. Explaining that it was part holiday and part ‘business’, in that we had met some SVP politicians as we were both advocates of Direct Democracy, the questions on the latter ranged far and wide. I mentioned the referendums on 25th of this month and that it was my belief that the government produced a ‘information sheet’ setting out the pros and cons of each question, at which point in our conversation the ballot paper was produced. Along with the latter was an A5 booklet, of approximately 40/45 pages, setting out just that; and which also contained statements from each political party advocating their position on each subject, stating whether they were for or against each. Not being able to read German (let alone speak it) I asked my host whether the government’s view was ‘fair’ in content and he replied that not only was it ‘fair’ but that it was, more importantly, factual; as were the statements by the political parties.
Contrast that with the ‘misinformation’ that we, the electorate, were presented by both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ in the referendum on June 23rd, along with those of our government and opposition.
One can only believe that, where referendums and democracy are concerned, the Swiss method is indeed democracy in action, while that of the United Kingdom most definitely is not.
You, dear reader, decide?