Swiss citizens have a variety of ways of influencing the political process. Men and women who hold Swiss citizenship can intervene directly in politics – by launching an initiative or requesting a referendum. And anyone can organise a petition.
Launching a popular initiative
As a Swiss citizen if you want to change the law, or introduce a new law, you can launch a popular initiative to amend the Federal Constitution. You have to collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months from your fellow citizens who support your proposal. If you succeed in doing this, and your initiative is declared valid and is not withdrawn in response to concessions from the government, say, then the Swiss People will vote on it.
Initiatives that are at the signature collection stage, i.e. that can still be signed:
Requesting a referendum
If parliament decides to introduce a new law, normally the electorate does not vote on it. However:
- optional referendum: if 50,000 signatures are collected from Swiss voters or eight cantons demand a referendum within 100 days, then a popular vote is held. The term ‘optional referendum’ is used, because it is possible to request a referendum, but normally no one does, or the request is unsuccessful.
- mandatory referendum: certain enactments of parliament, primarily amendments to the Federal Constitution, must be submitted to a popular vote. This is known as a ‘mandatory referendum’. Adopting an amendment to the Constitution requires a majority of the People and of the cantons (a double majority).
Requests for referendums that are at the signature collection stage, i.e. that can still be signed:
Organising a petition
You can use a petition to make a direct request or proposal to the authorities. Anyone, regardless of age or nationality, can organise a petition.
Last modification 15.04.2015