Today, the Swiss, again, demonstrated to the entire world how direct democracy works.
They also showed that direct democracy is real democracy. Compared to direct democracy, the representative democracy we have in other countries is not real democracy.
Representative democracy is a far more humane and overall a far better system to develop society than all other creepy regimes like totalitarian or authoritarian elites, one party, one person or one religion systems, but it is not real democracy.
Such regimes should not exist because their mere existence daily violates the human rights of all citizens, even of those who support such regimes, because they can not change their minds.
But let us go back to the Swiss because we can learn democracy from them.
Today the Swiss decided on many issues in their towns, cities, cantons (like states or provinces) and at the national level, but I will focus on what they decided on three national votes.
They voted on covering the face in public places (motivated by the burka and by security), on a commercial treaty with Indonesia, and also on digital ID.
On covering the face in public places, it looks like the initiative to ban covering the face has won. As of the early afternoon of March 7th, the initiative has the support of 53.49% of the voters. 50.92% of eligible voters are taking part.
You can follow it live with the phone app Voteinfo.
Many critics of direct democracy say that direct democracy does not work very well because in Switzerland, voter participation is not very high. Here 50.92%, so far, of eligible voters are voting, the rest decided they have better things to do.
In national elections, voter turnout can be even lower; for example, in 2019, 45% of eligible voters voted, the majority decided not to vote.
But to say direct democracy does not work because of low voter turn out is like saying that people not use the car to go to work because “cars do not work as transportation”. It is irrational to conclude that; people may not be using their cars to go to work for many reasons, even if they value their cars and will never consider not having a car.
The may not be using the car because they ride with friends or co-workers to save money or pollute less, or because parking at work is too expensive, or because by not driving to work they save on insurance, or many other reasons.
This means that to conclude voter turnout in Switzerland is low because they are disillusioned with direct democracy makes no sense either.
Swiss are happy with their system. Surveys show 85% of the people are happy with the system; go and check how many in your country are happy with the way your representative democracy is working…
Others suggest the “complicated” Swiss system causes low voter turnout. We know it is not so because when the issue interests them, up to 70% go and vote.
Low turn out can be explained by other causes.
For example, many Swiss voters may not care if people cover their faces in public or not, the issue does not interest them too much. It is logical many Swiss may not be interested in voting about face covering. In Switzerland, a country of 8.5 million people, only one hundred thousand signatures are necessary to put the issue of face covering to a national referendum. The issue may interest an important minority a lot, but it does not mean most people are interested.
It is also quite possible that voter turnout in referendums if relatively low because in the Swiss direct democracy, the people vote on many individual issues; it is unlikely one single issue will interest an overwhelming majority of citizens.
Another reason for low voter turnout in Swiss elections, not in referendums, is that Swiss politicians have much less political power than politicians in representative democracies. In Switzerland the decisive political power lies outside the executive and outside parliament, it lies with the people. This means it is not so important who gets elected.
In representative democracies it very different; the people do not decide issues and they have only one chance to decide, and only every several years; who will be the party and the politicians exercising all political power; they should turn out in huge numbers, but in many countries they do not because they no longer believe representative democracy is working.
In representative democracies all political power lies with the executive, and the legislative, which also includes the power of the opposition. In representative democracies, outside elections, the people have zero formal political power; they can not decide anything, certainly they can not decide the political agenda, the Swiss can and do.
On the other two issues Swiss voters decide today; digital ID and the treaty with Indonesia, it looks like the people will reject to be identified digitally but will support the treaty with Indonesia. I wonder if those who oppose the treaty with Indonesia because of non-sustainable oil plantations will also get the signatures to oppose trading with China and other places for far more serious reasons…
Anyway, it is time for direct democracy wherever you are.
In a direct democracy voters will decide and the politicians will obey the decisions of the people. In a representative democracy it is the other way around; the politicians decide and voters obey their decisions. Voters pay the salaries and sustain the whole country, voters should decide issues, not those voter pay to serve them.
The evolution towards direct democracy is the logical next step, but the politicians will resist it because they know they will lose much of their power. Swiss politicians resisted too, when Switzerland was still a representative democracy, they did not want direct democracy either; they only relented when the people pushed, and pushed, and pushed them into it.