2011: record year for popular initiatives

Meritxell Mir
Meritxell Mir - [email protected]
2011: record year for popular initiatives

Switzerland's system of direct democracy seemed more alive than ever in 2011, with the year seeing the launch of a record 23 popular initiatives


Most of the popular initiatives launched or voted upon were related to immigration, the environment or the economy.

The record haul of initiatives can be partly explained by the fact that 2011 was a federal election year, with political parties using the mechanism of direct democracy to set their political agendas.

Major international events, like the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, helped the greens and the newly formed Party for Solidarity – Switzerland, to raise awareness about Switzerland’s nuclear policy. Both asked citizens to phase out nuclear power.

Another environmental initiative, in this case launched by the newly formed Liberal Green Party, proposed an energy tax to replace the Value Added Tax (VAT).

The return of the financial crisis also prompted political parties to launch several initiatives. The Socialist Party, in alliance with the unions, launched an initiative to set a minimum wage in Switzerland.

The Socialists also teamed up with the Greens and various organizations to collect enough signatures to force a vote on the establishment of a publicly funded health insurance system.

Not for the first time, foreigners represented one of the hottest topics for national initiatives. Using controversial posters that earned it international infamy, the Swiss People’s Party hit the headlines with its initiative against mass immigration.

However, not all initiatives launched in 2011 will make it to the polling stations. In accordance with the Swiss Constitution, any political parties, unions, or non-profit organizations behind the proposals will have to collect at least 100,000 signatures in 18 months for their initiative to be put to a national vote.

Before 2011, the record year for popular initiatives was 1998, with a total of 19.


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