First of all, what is the difference between a referendum and popular initiative?
A referendum happens when voters either approve or reject a piece of existing legislation. All it takes is a petition with 50,000 legitimate signatures presented to the federal administration office.
But the Swiss can also create their own laws through citizen-driven initiatives. To get an initiative on a ballot, a petition with 100,000 signatures is required.
The Switzerland’s Federal Chancellery has approved three June referendums on Wednesday.
#DécisionCF 5 objets sont en #votation le 13 juin 2021:
➡ Initiative sur l’eau potable
➡ Initiative sur les pesticides
➡ Loi sur les mesures policières de lutte contre le terrorisme
— André Simonazzi (@BR_Sprecher) February 3, 2021
The Swiss parliament passed the Covid-19 Act on September 25th, 2020, giving the government a legal basis to impose restrictions aimed at tackling the pandemic on an ongoing basis.
A group calling itself “Friends of the Constitution” collected enough signatures to trigger the referendum, arguing that the law is unnecessary and voicing concern that the government might use it to launch an obligatory vaccination campaign, although authorities deny this claim.
The CO2 Act
Switzerland finalised revisions to the so-called CO2 law on September 25th, 2020.
The legislation introduces several taxes and measures to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
While most parties support this law, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) launched a referendum, claiming the legislation “stifles innovation and increases bureaucracy”.
“Its main effects are to increase energy consumption and restrict our mobility”, the party said.
Also in September 2020, the parliament approved a piece of reform legislation to crack down on terrorism and extremist violence.
It strengthens previous standards against terrorism and organised crime, punishing recruitment, training and travel with an intent to commit a terrorist act.
However, opponents, including Young Liberal Greens, the Socialist Youth, the Young Greens, and some human rights organisations, launched a referendum against the law revisions, arguing that the proposed measures go too far.
As for the two initiatives, they both focus on agricultural policy.
The Clean Drinking Water Initiative “requires that agricultural subsidies be allocated only to agricultural practices that do not harm the environment and do not pollute drinking water.”
They refer specifically to pesticides, antibiotics, and imports of fodder and fertilizers used in farming.
The initiative “For a Switzerland free of synthetic pesticides” calls for the ban of the use of these products in agriculture, in the public sphere, and would also apply to imports of products from abroad.
The initiatives were launched by the Green Party, farmers’ organisations, and environmental groups.
The next national vote will take place on Sunday March 7th.