Switzerland’s system of direct democracy will be tested again later this year, this time with a referendum on whether to withdraw government powers to impose lockdowns and other measures to slow it down. the Covid-19 pandemic.
The landlocked Alpine state of 8.5 million people is unusual in voting for its people on important policy steps by offering a referendum if enough people sign the petition for the vote. Last year, Switzerland voted to increase its stock of cheap housing, tax benefits for children and hunting wolves.
The idea is to give citizens oversight of the powers of the federal government, and it’s a throwback to the patchwork cantons, or fiercely independent districts, that were put together in the medieval period.
Now, the country is gearing up for a referendum on whether to repeal the government’s legal authority to order another lockdown and containment of the pandemic after campaigners petitioned for about 86,000 signatures this week – higher than 50,000 needed – triggering a nationwide vote to lift last year’s Covid- 19 Act.
The vote could come as soon as June, and is likely to reflect discord in the US and elsewhere over how far the government should limit social interaction in a pandemic – or whether to lock down altogether.