Under the country’s direct democracy rules, any citizen can push for a referendum if he is able to collect at least 100,000 signatures from eligible voters who support the cause.
The initiative called “Save our Swiss Gold” is pushing for an amendment of the Swiss constitution to stop any further sales of the country’s gold reserves, which now stand at about 1,000 tonnes.
Any gold remaining in the central bank’s reserves should also be stored in Switzerland, according to the initiative.
In addition, it requires the central bank to hold 20 percent of its reserves in gold.
According to the Swiss National Bank’s 2010 annual report, the precious metal currently makes up about 16 percent of the bank’s reserves.
The far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) criticised the central bank for having sold about half of its gold reserves in recent years.
If it had not done so, its reserves would be worth 75 billion francs more today, according to SVP parliamentarian Luzi Stamm, quoted by the news wire ATS.
The central bank has in recent years been selling its gold reserves on the advice of Swiss experts.
SVP parliamentarians pointed out that the Swiss were not consulted on the sale. Gold is “a public asset” as it “reflect the labour, inventiveness, the pioneering spirit, and the performance of the population,” said parliamentarian Ulrich Schlüer.
No government has the right to dispose of a country’s reserves, said Schlüer.
The location where the gold is stored is also significant. According to SVP, it is irresponsible for the central bank to store part of its reserves abroad.
When asked, the central bank’s spokesman said that its gold reserves are held “in Switzerland and abroad” although it would not say in which other countries the precious metal is held.
Gold has been in demand over recent years as investors flocked to the safe haven metal amid economic turmoil.
Consultancy GFMS forecasted this month that the gold price is on course to go above $2,000 an ounce this year for the first time.
Gold is this week trading at around $1,800 an ounce.