The Swiss in a few days will give the World, including the best representative democracies, another lesson in democracy, this time they will do it at the local level

In the Congress of Vienna (1815), the Jura region of Switzerland became part of the Canton of Bern.

Many residents of the region did not like it because most people in the Jura region of the Canton of Bern speak French and are Catholics; in the Canton of Bern most people speak German and are Protestants.

Many French-speakers who did not want to be part of the Canton of Bern started, in the late 40s and 50s, a campaign to become a new canton. They even committed some arson, one person died, to bring attention to their cause.

In Switzerland, each canton has its own constitution. In the Canton of Bern, its constitution had no provisions for part of the canton to split and become a new canton.

The government of the Canton of Bern felt the people should decide. No doubt they came to this conclusion because in Switzerland’s direct democracy, politicians know the will of the people is the foundational stone of their society.

In Switzerland, the Constitution continuously reflects the will of the people. There is no “sacred” constitution that the people can not change, or that only can be interpreted by the “high priests” of the supreme court of constitutional court of the country, as it happens in representative democracies. In Switzerland, the “fathers of the constitution” are the people themselves; they directly exert their right and power whenever they decide to.

But there was a problem; in the 60s the Swiss constitution had no provision to create new cantons, unless the constitution of a canton had some legal provision to make that possible.

Bern did what to the Swiss is obvious; let the people decide, hold a binding referendum to change the constitution of the canton and allow for secession of the Jura region if the people of the Jura so decided. Nothing can be more democratic.

As you know, in representative democracies, what they did in Bern is a no-no; no way Canada, Spain, France, the US, is a no-no. In Canada, no way an English-speaking area would be allowed to separate from Quebec, and no way a French-speaking population would be allowed to create another province out of New Brunswick.

The same goes for the other representative democracies. For example, in Spain, the Catalan separatists love the idea of divorcing from Spain, but do not dare suggesting Spanish-speaking areas of Barcelona should form another region, or join neighbouring Aragon or Valencia.

In the Basque area, for far less, the separatists will shoot you, or look the other way if you are shot at.

France, Brittany, Corsica are much the same as Spain.

But in Switzerland the people of the canton of Bern voted and decided, by a vast majority (87%), that the people of Jura would have the right to secede.

It makes perfect sense; if husband and wife can divorce without violence, so should people and territories

This was the process:

The first step was to have the voters in the Jura region of the Canton of Bern, vote to find out if the majority wanted to become a new canton.

If the result showed the majority wanted to secede, another vote would take place at the district levels (districts are larger than municipalities).

If most districts voted to form the new Canton of Jura, the districts who voted against that would vote gain to decide if they wanted to go or to remain.

Likewise, if most districts rejected becoming a new canton, the cantons voting to secede would vote again to decide if they wanted to leave or remain.

But the Swiss went further; they consider how voters in municipalities, and even villages, felt about secession; the municipalities bordering on districts that separated of seceded would vote again to decide if they wanted to leave or remain.

In 1979; after several popular referendums, including a Swiss national referendum, part of the French-speaking Catholics of the Canton of Bern created the new Canton of Jura.

But this did not settle the issue; some French-speaking catholic areas who remained within the Canton of Bern, later on decided they wanted to secede too.

One such town is Moutier; 7000 residents. They held a referendum to leave Bern and join the Canton of Jura. The side who wanted to leave won. Unfortunately, some irregularities invalidated vote.

But the Swiss do not rush important issues; it is now, in March 2021, that the people of Moutier will vote again to decide if they will leave the Canton of Bern and join the Canton of Jura.

Can the people your country at the local, district, canton and national levels decide their fate like the people of Switzerland can? I am sure they can not, but they should be able to. It is time for direct democracy.

Direct democracy is about the people themselves deciding the issues on their present and future. Because in representative democracies the people only vote, they can not decide issues, representative democracies are not real democracies.

That does not mean many are not happy with them, but more will be happier, more satisfied, and the country will be a better country if they turn to direct democracy.

Victor Lopez

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