Swiss-style democracy is more democratic because it is direct and because it is more representative

  1. In another post I showed how Switzerland is, by far, the most democratic country in the World, never mind the intellectual contorsions and pirouettes of The Economist’s Intelligent Unit, placing Switzerland in 12th place, behind 11 representative democracies.

Switzerland is the most democratic country in the World because none of the other 11 even come close to Switzerland in the degree that “government by the people” takes place.

As we know, the Swiss people have far more power than the peoples of any of the other 11 countries, and than the people of any other country. The only other country that is starting to approach Switzerland is, this probably surprises you, Taiwan, but that is another story.

But the Swiss have not done away completely with representative democracy; the Swiss elect political representatives like in all representative democracies, but there is a huge difference.

In representative democracies, the party that wins the majority of seats governs alone. If no party wins a majority, it may govern in minority or in coalition with another party, so that together, they can form a majority coalition.

In such countries, the governing parties represent the majority of the population, but a small majority, normally not much more than 50-60%. This means that huge portions of the population have no representation in the executive, even if they elected substantial numbers of parliamentarians.

The Swiss do it differently; in Switzerland the executive is always a coalition of the major parties, the parties that, together, represent 80% of the population.

It is obvious the Swiss executive governs for the majority because the parties in the executive represent an overwhelming majority and because they negotiate all decisions until they satisfy those in the coalition.

One great advantage is that the system makes it impossible for any one party, or the two major parties, to unilaterally impose on the population policies that do not have the support of other important parties.

It is obvious then than the Swiss executive is the most democratic in the World.

Not only that, the system imposes a slow and deliberate process of decision making, except when an emergency dictates quick action.

If to that, we add that the Swiss executive reaches decisions by consensus, because the President does not have more power than any of the other members of the executive, even if his or her party represents more voters or more parliamentarians, then we can see how the Swiss executive makes decisions that truly represent the political goals of the major parties and of the majority of the people.

But let us not forget that in Switzerland they also have direct democracy. This means that ordinary people can, at any time, set in motion the celebration of a referendum challenging, and even turning back, any decision by the executive, and even any law produced by the legislature.

In Switzerland, a few citizens can get together and set in motion a national referendum on any issue. The government can not stop referendums and must enact the results of the referendums.

Not only that, the Swiss government can not call referendums, referendums are held when the law mandates them or when the people so decide.

But others can also set the wheels of a referendum in motion; any political party, even minority parties, and even parties with no representation in parliament, can.

In Switzerland any NGO, any union, anybody, can set in motion a referendum; the process to tell and instruct the executive and the legislative; “no, no you can not do that, you must do this”.

It is obvious then; Switzerland is the most democratic country in the World because it is a direct democracy and because it is a more representative, representative democracy.

The democracies of the Scandinavian countries, of the Anglo-Saxon countries, of Germany, of Japan, of the Netherlands and of a few others, are stable democracies but lag far behind Switzerland in democratic quality.

If you want the people of your country to really live in a democracy, you will have to move and do something to, at least, have a democracy as democratic and representative as the Swiss have. But perhaps your country could even surpass the Swiss…

The Swiss people took to the streets, peacefully but relentlessly, until the politicians, almost two centuries ago, relented and brought in direct democracy and also a more representative democracy.

Interestingly; the Swiss people also acted after the elected politicians botched the management of another pandemic; crisis can really be opportunities.

Victor Lopez

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