Direct democracy is emotional intelligence in government

The Swiss just decided by popular vote three important issues. They did that on November 28th.

It is important to know that the Swiss government must obey the decisions of populr referendums. It is also very important to know that in a direct democracy, like Switzerland’s, it is the people who have the authority to force the government to hold referendums, provided that the proponents of the referendum collect the required number of signatures.

The process of collecting the required number of signatures is very straightforward and makes it relatively easy to have referendums. This is why the Swiss hold referendums several times each year and on several issues.

On Nov. 28th the Swiss decided three issues.

On the Covid Law, they decided several things, perhaps the most important is that the government can issue rules to require a Covid certificate of vaccination. Those against the proposal to issue certificates argued that it would divide the country because many Swiss are against certificates.

The result of the referendum on the Covid Law was that 62% of the voters approved that proposal for the government to require vaccination certificates to attend public events, etc.

By deciding in a popular referendum, a completely democrat decision, those against the certificates have no legitimate option other than comply. It is not different than when, in a election, their party does not win; the only option is to accept the result.

With the referendum, the Swiss go to the heart of the issue; “let the people decide”. In this way, vaccination certificates in Switzerland have not becomedo not become the political football they have become in countries where the politicians decide such issues.

Another issue the Swiss people decided democratically was the Nursing Care Initiative.

The initiative was approved by 61% of voters.

The initiative will modify the Swiss Constitution to require that high quality nursing be available to all Swiss. The initiative also requires that nurses salaries be increased. It will also increase the autonomy of nurses. For example, they will be able to bill health insurance companies, directly, not just for services ordered by a doctor. By the way, Switzerland has the best universal coverage health care system, but it is privately funded and administered. It is another interesting issue.

The third initiative was the Justice Initiative.

Those who collected the signatures to hold the referendum on this initiative argued that Federal Supreme Court Judges should not be appointed by the politicians and that the judges should not have to be reelected. The intention of the initiative is to make the judges independent of political parties. With the new initiative, if approved. federal judges would be appointed in a lottery.

The initiative also would ensure that judges not affiliated with parties have a fair chance of becoming federal judges.

At this point it is important to keep in mind that Swiss Supreme Court Judges can not overturn the results of any popular referendum on constitutional grounds, in Switzerland, not the Executive, nor the Legislature, nor the Judges can “check and balance” the authority of the people.

The people voted, 68% of the voters decided not to change the current system for judges. But keep in mind Swiss Supreme Court Judges, even if linked to parties, have essentially no political power’ much different from, for example, the US Supreme Court.

67.5% of the voters turned out to vote across te nation.

At the same time that Swiss voters decided national issues, local voters decided local issues. For example, in the city of Lucern, 82 000 inhabitants, 64% of the voters approved the construction of new building for government offices.

In that canton of Zurich, also on Nov. 28, the citizens voted and decided to ban fossil fuel heating systems. 63% of the voters decided that was the way to go for the Canton. Voter participation was 63% too.

It is obvuous the system of referendums deepens democracy, it makes voters responsible for what happens in the country, the canton, the city, the town and the villages.

Direct democracy is an example of collective emotional intelligence at work, because it ensures that all voices are heard, anyone, any group, no matter how small can collect signatures to have a referendum on any issue.

This means that in Switzerland, extra-parliamentary parties can be heard at the national level by the system of popular referendums. It is difficult in Switzerland for people to complain that the politicians or the government does not listen to them; if they gather the signatures, propose a referendum on the issue and voters side with them, the government has no choice, it has to listen to the people and do what the people say. The legislature, even if unanimously agreed, can not stop a referendum and have to do what the results of the referendum tell them they must do.

In many other cantons and urban centres the Swiss also voted various local issues.

The people of Switzerland know they have a system that enables them to have power, to know they are not ignored; what is more emotionally important for citizens than to know they count, they are heard, they can not be ignored, they really run their country, canton, etc.?

Representative democracy is not able to create the stability direct democracy creates because, by its nature, the system does not take into account the wishes and concerns, the emotions of citizens, as direct democracy does.

We could say the the Swiss system is a more emotionally intelligent system.

You can have the same system in your country, but the politicians do not want it. They will tell you thinks like: “direct democracy is the dictatorship of the majority (false), “our country is too big for direct democracy” (false), “direct democracy is too slow” (false), “direct democracy creates voter apathy and few turn upto vote (false as you just saw). Besides, in one year, 90% of the Swiss voters vote in a referendum. “Switzerland is very different (false); the Swiss had representative democracy until 1867. The people of Zurich, after a pandemic, they had enough of the politicians making all the decisions, they decide to decide themselves. The politicians resisted for a while (because they did not want to lose all that power they have in representative democracies, power that transfers to the people in direct democracies).

Direct democracy, like representative democracy, do not happen without effort. Even representative democracy is not the natural state of human societies, it only happens by deliberate efforts and considerable collective skills. Direct democracy requires more effort, more political intelligence.

Victor Lopez

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