In a direct democracy, like in everything else, the devil is in the details.

On paper, California’s direct democracy is fairly similar to Switzerland’s, but the way they work is miles apart, because words are not facts.

Let us look at how Switzerland deals with the issue we addressed in the previous post; legalization of same-sex marriages.

The Swiss, in a 2005 referendum, legalized same-sex partnership or unions, not same-sex marriage, just unions.

There is no appeal in Switzerland against what the people decide in a referendum; no government or judge can overturn it.

One option, for those not satisfied with the results, was to keep working until they can have the 50 000 signatures required to hold another referendum. In the new referendum, most voters may agree with them in whatever new proposal they make to legalize same-sex marriage.

Another option was that a political party in parliament introduce a motion to make a new law recognizing same-sex marriage.

In 2013, The Green Party of Switzerland introduced in the Swiss Parliament a motion to develop a new law to legalize same-sex marriage.

After much debating and negotiating, in 2020 the new draft law has cleared, by a large majority, the lower house of the Swiss Parliament. In November 2020, the upper chamber will vote too. It is expected the upper chamber will also pass the law.

Surveys show that today, the overwhelming majority of Swiss voters, even a majority of voters of the more conservative parties, support making same-sex marriage legal. This means it is unlikely anyone will challenge the new law in a referendum. If so, the new law will become the Swiss law on same-sex marriages.

However, if within 100 days, an individual, a group of individuals, or a political party, gathers the 50 000 signatures necessary to take the new law to a referendum, and if in the referendum, the voters reject the new law; it is back to the drawing board.

This is how direct democracy works; it is in the hands of the people. It adjusts to the changes in attitudes and values of the people.

Some people say that in California direct democracy is not working very well, they are right. It is not working because California does not have a real direct democracy. This will be so as long as the judges can prevail over the will of the people, as we showed in the previous post.

Representative democracy lacks the mechanisms, that direct democracy has to be continuously in tune with the will of the people.

In a direct democracy, the people who want change accept that their fellow citizens democratically may turn down the change they want. They accept the decision because the system gives them plenty of opportunities to convince their fellow citizens they should change a law, that we need a new law, or that the constitution itself needs revision.  This fosters civilized debate and makes most demonstrations unnecessary and prevents riots.

If you want a society where change is smooth and gradual, a society where votes really count, because voters make the most important decisions, direct democracy delivers what you want.

California does not really have enough direct democracy, and that is the problem.

A substantial number of people say direct democracy does not work. They point to California as one example. It is the other way around; California direct democracy is not working very well because it is almost “fake direct democracy”.

In California and a few other American states, the people have the power to pass certain new laws, but the courts still have more power than the people. Direct democracy is impossible that way.

For example, the people of California passed Proposition 8.

This is what happened; many people in California opposed same sex marriage in the early 2000s. California law allows for citizen’s initiatives and referendums. They collected the required number of signatures, near one million, to have all the people of California vote on their proposition. The proposition wanted to have same sex marriage declared illegal.

The people voted and the proposition won; the people decided, by approximately 52% against 48%, that same-sex marriage would be illegal in California.

The people who lost took the proposition to the courts. This is possible because in California the people do not have the last word. This is so because California is a representative democracy, not a real direct democracy, never mind the talk about “California’s direct democracy”. California has some elements of direct democracy, but not enough of them, not the crucial one.

After several legal battles in California’s courts, the issue landed in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Supreme Court decided that Proposition 8 was not constitutional, never mind what California votes decided, some sovereignty!

There you have it; 9 justices elected by the politicians, not even elected by the people, decided what the people of California formally decided does not really matter.

The 9 Supreme Court judges declared proposition 8 “unconstitutional” and that was it, Proposition 8 is dead.

Even if 99% of the people of California had voted in favour of Proposition 8, the judges would have it thrown out.  Where is “government of the people, for the people by the people” in that?, nowhere.

At the US national level, the situation is even worse; there is no opportunity at all for the people to do anything even close to what the people of California tried to do, which is not much.

Let us note that same sex partnerships, but not marriage, were legal in California since 1999; the people of California did not want same sex unions to be marriage, they did not oppose the law recognizing homosexual unions. They wanted the word marriage reserved for heterosexual unions.

Tomorrow I will look at how Switzerland is dealing with the same issue, using the tools of direct democracy, in a much sounder way.

One huge advantage the Swiss have is that they have direct democracy at all levels of government; at the federal level, at the state (canton) level, and at the municipal level. Because of that, they have developed a culture of direct democracy. It was not always like that; in another post I will write about how Switzerland was able to evolve and show the way to others.

Contrary to the Swiss, the people of California have very limited direct democracy, and none at the national level. This means California voters have no say in the most important laws and decisions that affect them. This makes it more difficult for voters to develop their sense of being the executive decision makers.

The Swiss, again, show that direct democracy provides for better governance.

 

 

 

Direct democracy is about freedom and power

Direct democracy means the people have freedom of expression, freedom to decide who governs, and the freedom and power to make executive decisions that prevail over the decisions of politicians and judges.

If the people have the first two but do not have the power to decide on issues and laws, then democracy falls short; it contradicts what democracy is about when the people are not the final decision-makers on issues.

The reason is simple; when the elected representatives, or the highest court in the land, have more power of decision than the people, then it is not a democracy.

When the people fought for and gained the power to decide who governs, they made a tremendous improvement over totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, one-party system regimes, religious regimes, absolute kings, and so on.

But that advance is no longer enough.

When you elect your representatives, you have representative “democracy”. Unfortunately, in representative “democracy”, the elected representatives, the politicians have all the executive power, as the old regimes did; together, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary have all the power of decision.

The politicians also control de judiciary because they elect the judges of the highest court. They do not control the decisions of the judges, but they control who becomes a Supreme Court Judge and that gives them even more power.

In a democracy it can not be like that; the vote of the people must be the decisive power on all laws and on the constitution itself.

Representative democracy does not require approval by the people of the decisions of the executive, the legislative, or the judiciary. The opposite happens; the majority of the people may oppose a decision, but it has no effect.

So, here you have it; in representative democracies, the people are sovereign, but not really. The people have no executive power on anything, they just elect the politicians.

For example, the preamble to the Constitution of the United States says: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more Perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the Common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I mention the United States because it is the better known representative democracy, but the Constitution of your country probably says something similar; that the people are “sovereign”, that the people are the source of all authority, etc.

So, if the American people “… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”, you would think the American People have the authority to revise, modify and replace the constitution, and do the same with all laws made under the Constitution.

Unfortunately, it is not like that. The people can not modify directly the Constitution of the United States, no matter how many want it. The American people do not have the power to do that, only the elected politicians can do it, and only the Supreme Court can decide if this or that law is constitutional.

The American people can write, speak, agitate, march, protest, riot, and they do, to change laws. Sometimes, protests prod the politicians into action to pass a new law, or to modify an existing one. Other times, they ignore the protests. The American people were sovereign only once; when they created the Constitution.

We also know protests do not always represent the will of the majority. This means that in a representative democracy you have situations where government passes a law that may be opposed by the majority. In democracy, that is not rational.

The American people do not have any established mechanism to make decisions collectively. This has to change.

It is interesting that some representative democracies practice timid forms of direct democracy. I say timid because they appear to let the will of the people prevail on issues, but when it comes to the hard facts, they don’t.

Tomorrow I will look at timid California’s direct democracy to illustrate this.

 

Is representative “democracy” closer to an elected oligarchy than to democracy?

I believe it is.

Democracy means rule by the people, not rule by the representatives of the people, even if they are freely elected by the people. If the elected representatives rule, then it is not “rule by the people”, and it is not a democracy.

Even in a representative democracy in which the executive and the legislature extensively consult with the people before passing a new law, or before modifying the constitution, it is not really democracy because the people do not make the decision to be involved, those who rule decide.

Representative democracies, where government consults extensively with the people, are perhaps the best representative democracies, but they are not democracies because the people do not rule.

In the Scandinavian democracies and a few more, they practice ample consultation, and that is good, but is not real democracy. It does not matter, for example, that the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks Norway as the best democracy in the World. Norway’s representative democracy is head and shoulders below Switzerland’s democracy. The reason is simple; the Swiss voters have more power than the government, in Norway is the opposite.

In constitutional matters, in Switzerland, the people have even more power than the high court; Norway does not come even close in that area.

In a real democracy, the people also have the final word on any issue in which they wish to decide; they do not need the invitation of the government.

Let us be clear; if the elected representatives consult the people, and even if they follow what the people say, it still is not a democracy. It can not be because the people still do not have the power to impose their will on the elected representatives.

Electing representatives is an important advance since Greek direct democracy died out, but it still is far behind Greek direct democracy as long as the people have less power than the representatives. In the whole World, only Switzerland comes close to ancient Greek democracy.

Representative democracy has been an enormous advance over authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, but it is not real democracy.

In a representative democracy, we also hear about “separation of powers”, and how important they are for democracy.

Separation of power ensures that the executive, the legislative and the judiciary can not prevail over the other two.

Unfortunately, such separation rarely works very well.

It does not work when the executive and the legislative are in the hands of the same party. In theory, the legislative power could check the power of the executive, in reality, it often happens both powers work as one in many countries.

If the party can also appoint the high court judges, then its power is almost absolute. In that case, “separation of powers” is close to nothing.

But even if the government does not control the legislature, or has not appointed the high court judges, the power remains in the “troika”; the executive-legislative-judiciary, they have all the power. Even if they check each other’s power because different political parties are in power, overall power rests with them; the people have zero, or very close to zero, power.

True separation of powers needs to add: “on their own so deciding, the people will have the power to prevail over the other three branches”.

But there is another problem; at election time, in a representative democracy, some people go and some come, but the power continues in the hands of the parties. The people in the oligarchies also come and go, but the oligarchic system endures; the power continues in the hands of the same groups.

Even if a completely new party wins the election, the change still keeps the voters away from the power to make executive decisions, decisions on laws, and decisions on the constitution.

It is time to transition from representative democracy to real democracy, to direct democracy, to an orderly, peaceful, rational, informed system of direct decision-making by the people.

 

 

 

 

Direct democracy is about trust.

In a direct democracy, the politicians trust the people and the people trust the politicians.

A minimum of trust has to exist or be developed to have a representative democracy, but direct democracy deepens the trust and, because of that, it strengthens democracy.

It is difficult to say if representative democracy reflects or causes that the politicians do not trust the people, the people do not trust the politicians, the people do not trust each other, or any combination of the three.

Representative democracy is a great advance compared to the sad, absolute, authoritarian, and totalitarian regimes it replaces.

Unfortunately, almost from the beginning, a process of gradual deterioration of representative democracy starts. This happens because it carries within a “malignancy”.

The malignancy is that the elected representatives have much more power than the voters who elect them. Once elected, the politicians decide everything else.

It should not be like that, in a democracy, the people must have the final say, otherwise, it may look like a democracy, it may sound like a democracy, but it is not a democracy, because the people have less power than the politicians.

In a representative democracy, if there is no corruption and elections are fair, the people can change the governing party and the leaders of the country. But the newly elected have the same power those voted out had.

The only change is that the newly elected will use their power in a different direction. Sometimes it can be in a completely different direction, but they still hold all the power.

For example, the new people in power can privatize many public services or nationalize private businesses. The effects are very different, but the level of power of those who decide has not changed.

In either case, those who govern have the power to decide everything; they can pass new laws, sign new treaties, administer the public money any way they want, raise taxes, lower taxes, change the educational system, build or tear down a building or structure, etc.

The power relationships between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary branches may vary after each election, but in a representative democracy, the power always lies with the three branches of government, not with the people.

As time passes, the elected representatives can not resist using their “surplus power” to increase their power. In a representative democracy, the people do not have the power to control, supervise, or stop the decisions the politicians, or the decisions those appointed by the politicians, make.

In a representative democracy, the high courts also have too much power.

As the power of the elected representatives increases, regardless of the party in government, the power of the people decreases.

The result is progressive disenchantment with the way representative democracy works.

Most politicians in representative democracies are not interested in direct democracy.

It is difficult to say if it is because they do not trust the people to have the final say in all important matters, or if it is because the power they enjoy gives them the feeling they are “the chosen” to lead, or if power gives them material benefits, or prestige, or some other reason, but most politicians in a representative democracy are not interested in direct democracy.

Direct democracy has many positive effects in society; politicians learn that the people can be trusted to make all the important decisions. Politicians also learn to make laws the people will approve. As a result, the trust of the people in the politicians, and of the politicians in the people rises; that is a very powerful result.

Even more important; in a direct democracy, the people learn to trust themselves and each other.

Direct democracy is why in Switzerland, most laws produced by the government have the support of the people; the people trust the politicians.

Direct democracy needs trust and brings trust to another level.

But direct democracy will not happen spontaneously anywhere. Wherever you are, you will have to work at it.

How Swedish representative democracy shot itself in the foot.

Sweden has been one of the better-run countries in the World for decades.

For many years, a coalition of left-wing parties governed Sweden. They are pragmatists who realize the welfare state needs a strong, highly efficient private sector. You could say Sweden was, still is, a social-capitalist country.

Swedish capitalists have created major international companies like Assa Abloy, Electrolux, Ericsson, Essity, H&M, IKEA, Skanska, Spotify, Vattenfall and Volvo.

Sweden’s leftist parties have also created a country with excellent and abundant public services.

But in the 1980s the Swedish political and social elites made a mistake, a big one. For whatever reason, the governing politicians and others decided that Sweden should open its doors to refugees and immigrants. The politicians decided, like in all representative democracies, without the people having a formal say or control of the decision.

As a representative democracy, in Sweden, the elected politicians in parliament and government can pretty well decide whatever they consider good for the Swedish or the World. There is no mechanism for letting people decide.

Unfortunately, the new policies on immigration were not popular among many Swedes of different political tendencies, not just “conservatives”. This was because of the violence, poor integration of many immigrants, etc., affected Swedes of all ideologies.

Most politicians, the media, and many commentators equated opposition to immigration to racism. The result was that many ordinary citizens opposed to immigration were shamed into silence.

Nevertheless, the shaming did not change opinions; surveys showed most Swedes opposed to immigration in the way it was being handled by the government.

Slowly, the frustration of many voters led them to support the Sweden Democrats, a right-wing party. The party has been growing from 1% of the popular vote in 2002 to 17,5% in 2018.

Today, Sweden is more polarized than ever before; the parties and the people are polarized, although it does to reach the level of the US.

Direct democracy would have prevented polarization in Sweden, in the US too.

By not having direct democracy, the Swedish people can not gather, for example, 100 000 signatures to support a referendum on immigration, or on taxes, or anything else, and force the government to hold a binding referendum on the issue.

It is interesting to look at how the Swiss and their direct democracy system, handled immigration. In Switzerland, the people have the power to stop decisions made by the executive and the legislature, even if the decision by the legislature is unanimous.

In the Swiss system, politicians do not have the power to do what they did in Sweden.

In 2014 the Swiss gathered 100 000 signatures to support its initiative for a referendum on mass migration. Anyone is allowed to gather 100 000 signatures; a group of citizens, a political party, or any other organization.

The referendum showed that 50.33% of the voters supported ending mass migration.

If the public mood changes, another group of citizens, a party, etc., can gather the 100 000 signatures required to hold a referendum to do just the opposite or on another issue.

For example, the same conservative party who launched the initiative on mass migration, launched another one earlier on, in 2002, against “asylum abuse”. 50.1% of the voters rejected the initiative; end of discussion.

Because the Swiss politicians, the cultural elites, the media, etc., are used to having the people decide, to them opposing or supporting mass migration, or asylum seekers, is not related to racism, it is just another problem to be dealt with democratically, by letting the voters make the decision.

To equate opposition to mass migration to racism, and to silence those opposed to mass migration, was a huge mistake for Sweden. It is another example of the mistakes politicians with too much power make that harm democracy.

So, if your country is a parliamentarian democracy and has become polarized by immigration policies or other issues, spread the word about direct democracy.

Direct democracy is a more democratic system and also helps avoid polarization.

The “checks and balances” of representative democracy are not enough.

The system of checks and balances refers to the need to ensure that none of the three branches of government is too powerful.

In a representative democracy, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary must be kept in check by the other two, that is good, although it does not always work. But even if it works it is not good enough because the people can not do the checking and balancing of the three branches.

In a representative democracy, the people have no way of controlling the actual decisions made by any of the three branches.

All the voters can do is wait until the next election; the newly elected may pursue different policies, but they have no less power than those running the country before the election. This means elections do not change the situation.

When the Executive belongs to the same party holding the majority in the Legislature, the government can behave almost like a “dictatorship of the elected”.

As for the judges of the highest court, nobody checks and balances them, unless the politicians directly decide who will be a high court judge. I do not know what is worse; judges without control or judges controlled by the politicians.

The key check and balance any democracy must have is that the people must prevail over the three branches.

Some critics of direct democracy fear “mob rule”. Those who say it do not know direct democracy, or are elitists who do not really believe in democracy or understand it.

In a direct democracy there is no need to fear mob rule because the people follow democratic rules, that is why they have a democracy!

If they do not have those values, they cannot have direct democracy or representative democracy.

The people of stable representative democracies are ready for the transition to direct democracy; their track record proves it.

They have direct democracy in Switzerland. This is why Switzerland is the most stable and most democratic country.

Before adopting direct democracy, Switzerland was also a stable representative democracy for many years. Direct democracy has made Switzerland even more stable.

Switzerland is also a plural country. It has four official languages and four different ethno-cultural communities. Even if the clear majority (60%) of the Swiss are German speaking, they respect the minorities. As democrats, they know it is the right thing to do and the intelligent thing to do. There is no “mob rule” in Switzerland !

The US, and other representative democracies are splendid countries, but until the voters are the final decision-makers, democracy has a way to go.

If you believe the collective will of the majority of voters must prevail over the will of elected politicians, and over the high court judges, then you should push for direct democracy.

The problem in US politics is not Trump, Pelosi, Biden, Schumer, the Democrats, the Republicans, or the media!

The problem is the system of representative democracy. If this surprises you, I will explain how I came to this conclusion.

The title of the article refers to the United States, but representative democracy is intrinsically weak anywhere, even in the calmer, more stable countries.

I write about representative democracy because I believe in democracy. The only “improvement” that makes sense in authoritarian or authoritarian regimes is their demise.

The key problem in a representative democracy is that politicians have too much power. They have too much power to make decisions, to make laws, to appoint important judges, to sign treaties, etc.

Because they have too much power, it is only logical politicians in such an environment will fight hard, even viciously, to gain power; the system pushes them.

Mostly directly, but also indirectly, politicians in representative democracy decide everything. The only thing they do not decide is who will win the election, although they often manipulate the electoral system to win.

Another adverse effect of so much power in the hands of politicians is that special interest groups pour lots of money into politics. They do that to “have the ear” of the politicians on economic and non-economic issues.

If US politicians, and politicians elsewhere, have less power but the voters have more, democracy benefits.

One benefit is that bitter antagonism among the parties, which spills over to voters too, will disappear. This will happen because when voters have the power to be the final decision-makers on laws, treaties, the constitution, they focus more on the practical aspects of the issue and less on partisanship.

Another positive effect is that special interests will invest less money in politicians with less power. This is so because it makes no sense to spend money on people who can not do much to help you.

If the people become the final decision-makers on laws and on the Constitution, there is no need to have high court judges making “landmark” decisions either.

This is very important; some decisions made by the high courts change society deeply. In a democracy, only the voters should make, democratically, such decisions. The elected representatives should not make them, and even less so the judges, no matter how talented and honest the judges may be.

Because high court judges have so much political power, the parties in the US and in other representative democracies, fight very hard to appoint such judges. They want the judges to reflect the political orientation of the party.

Another positive effect of direct decision-making by voters is that it makes them directly responsible for the consequences of their decisions; they can no longer blame the politicians. Voters who make actual decisions, not just elect representatives, become very responsible because they are responsible.

Restricting voters to electing representatives is bad because it lets voters off the hook. In a democracy, it must not be like that; “the voter pays, the voter decides and is responsible for his or her decisions”.

More responsible voters are more rational voters too; they are not swayed by the grandiose, “messianic” messages of politicians about “vision” and “leadership”. Politicians quickly learn such messages fall on deaf ears. Powerful voters do not need, or want, “powerful” leaders. They want politicians who listen and correctly interpret, because they have to, what the voters want.

Such power in the hands of the people has another positive effect; political parties will work cooperatively and the crazy antagonism evaporates. The parties work together because they know voters are the final decision-makers, not them. Hard, polarizing fighting, like the parties do in the US and in other representative democracies, no longer make sense.

Al these positive effects are not theoretical speculations. We know they happen because we have the actual experience of Switzerland. In Switzerland, the Swiss people, not the politicians or the judges, are the final decision-makers on laws, treaties, and on the constitution itself.

I find it interesting that Swiss politicians also appoint the judges to the Supreme Court, but it does not matter much in Switzerland; the Swiss Supreme Court does not have the power to interpret the constitutionality of laws, the people do.

The Swiss Supreme Court can not make those “landmark” decisions the US Supreme Court makes. In Switzerland, only the voters make “landmark” decisions. This is how it must be in a democracy.

In other representative democracies, polarization is not as apparent as in the United States, but it has grown. This is obvious, otherwise, the “populist” parties of the right and the left would not exist, or would be much smaller.

Whether or not you are American, if you are tired of the politicians and the judges deciding, instead of you deciding, tired of the infighting and the division, then do something: push for direct democracy.

Direct democracy and religion

In 1892, the Swiss Animal Protection Association launched a popular initiative to ban the ritual slaughter of animals.

The elected representatives of the Swiss people; the Swiss Executive and the Swiss Parliament, opposed the initiative, but the people voted and on August 20th, 1893 ritual slaughter was banned.

Judaism requires the ritual slaughter of animals. Animals to be eaten by must be killed with sharp knife across the throat of the animal. Moslems also have a similar requirement.

Religious Jews, religious Moslems probably feel the same way, dislike the prohibition to kill the animals in the ritual way they have been doing for centuries.

The law in Switzerland now says that Jews and Moslems can kill the animals in the way prescribed by their religion, but only if they have been stunned first, in order to minimize their suffering.

Direct democracy means that the will of the majority must prevail. In direct democracy, laws and rules do not derive from God, Prophets, or Holy books; the people make the laws.

It is perfectly reasonable to believe in God, to believe God makes the rules, but it is also reasonable to believe rules must be made by men.

Religious people have a reasonable point in wanting to follow their beliefs and traditions. But the people who believe it is important to avoid animal suffering also may want to follow their direct democracy tradition of rule by the majority.

The issue with ritual religious slaughter is: what comes first; what the God-given or God-inspired holy books say, or what the majority of the people say?

In a democracy, the Ancient Greeks settled the issue2500 years ago. The Greeks decided that, in a direct democracy (Greek democracy was direct, not representative) the laws are made by men, not by the gods, by priests interpreting God-inspired books or by politicians or judges, and that the will of the majority must be the law of the land.

Just like ritual slaughter is important for the feelings of religious people, it is important for the feelings of people who believe in direct democracy that reasoned, openly discussed, not hurried, political decisions made by the majority of the people, must prevail

In Switzerland, those who want to practice ritual slaughter can gather the required signatures for a referendum and have the Swiss people vote again on the issue.

It would be not the first time the Swiss people change their minds. They did it with respect to the United Nations; in 1986 the Swiss decided not to join the UN but in 2002 they changed their minds and joined.

Some Jews have said anti-Semitism motivated the decision to ban ritual slaughter in Switzerland. I do not know, but even if that is the case, the argument is not about Jews but the way religious Jews want to practice ritual slaughter. The argument on the table is about animal suffering, not about Judaism.

Overall, it is much better for Jews in Switzerland to have the majority of Swiss decide to prohibit ritual slaughter than to have the political or judicial Swiss elites allow ritual slaughter against the will of the majority.

Direct democracy is about rule by the majority of the people while allowing any political, cultural, or religious minority to freely present their arguments in an atmosphere of rational debate and respect.

 

We need direct democracy because it is more representative than representative democracy.

Swiss direct democracy is not perfect, but even when it performs “undemocratically” is far more representative than any representative democracy.

Direct democracy transfers power from the politicians and the elites to the people. This has created a chain reaction of good collateral effects that mitigate flaws and mistakes.

In Swiss direct democracy, like it would be the case in any properly functioning direct democracy, the politicians have to govern for most of the voters; they have no choice because the voters have the power to prevail over the politicians on any issue of importance.

This has produced a politically unifying effect; the major political parties have realized that it only makes sense to draft laws supported by the majority of the Swiss people. To do that, the parties work cooperatively in a coalition.

Because the major parties work together, whatever the government does, in the executive or the legislative, normally has the support of most voters, if it does not it will not fly.

The coalition government in Switzerland does not happen because, like is the case in other democracies, the governing party lost its majority and has to seek allies. In Switzerland, the coalition government is the norm since 1959.

The parties who share power in Switzerland represent 70% to 85% of the voters. This is a vast majority, bigger than what majority governments have in other democracies.

I do not know why Swiss voters do not give an absolute majority to any party, but they do not. I will look into that in another post.

The smaller parties do not take part in government but can, like any other group of Swiss citizens, gather signatures to call for referendums and stop what the government wants to do. The referendum clears the air democratically in the open. This does not happen in a representative democracy.

Another curious aspect of Swiss direct democracy is how it handles changes in the political support of governing parties. It does not seem to very fair, but is interesting.

For example, in the 2019 Swiss federal election, the Green Party managed to elect 28 parliamentarians, surpassing the Christian Democratic People’s Party of Switzerland (CVP), who obtained 25.

Before the election the CVP was one of the four major parties in the Swiss government, after the election it dropped to fifth place.

Traditionally, in Switzerland, the four parties who elected the most parliamentarians form the government.

Perhaps because of established ties, or because of political debts among the traditional major parties, the other three parties agreed that the CVP would continue in government. They left the Green Party out. I suppose they did not want to include a fifth party because if they did, one of the other parties would lose a spot in the fixed 7 seat government.

In direct democracy, the power of government is much lower than in representative democracies.  What happened to the Greens in Switzerland is probably unfair, but not too important. If the Greens feel they have a popular position in an issue, on even on this issue, they can get a referendum going.

The situation illustrates how the great power the Swiss people have over the politicians, keeps the effects of the unfair decisions by politicians to a minimum.

The power of the voter in Switzerland also makes unnecessary the “checks and balances” people talk so much about in representative democracies. In a direct democracy, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary are constantly “checked” and “balanced” by the Swiss people.

In direct democracy what really counts is the power of the people. Should it not count wherever you are?