The Swiss may be neutral, but they’re not apathetic. This weekend, Switzerland is holding a referendum — on whether they should have more referendums.
The Swiss are big into referendums; the country holds a half a dozen major “yea or nay” national votes every year in addition to its normal elections, according to the Associated Press.
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This weekend, the Swiss will decide whether they want to have a referendum every time Switzerland signs a big international treaty. Opponents of the measure argue it could clog up the democratic system, given that the country puts its name to about 500 such treaties per year. Proponents of the measure — which is getting heavy support from the country’s ultra-nationalist groups — say people will only vote on the major ones. Heidi won’t have to skip down to the polling station every other day to vote her conscience on an ‘Agreement revising the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on mutual recognition in relation to conformity assessment’. (Yes, that is a real agreement.)
So what is this really about? Well, some people in Switzerland are afraid their government has been bowing to foreign powers (namely the E.U.) without asking them first. But political scientists say the alternative — handing these delicately-crafted agreements over to the hoi polloi — might not be such a good idea. “It would have a tremendous impact on Swiss foreign policy,” Rene Schwok, a political scientist at the University of Geneva, told the AP. “It would be a major victory for the isolationist camp and would make it almost impossible for the Cabinet to make bilateral agreements with the European Union.”
It looks as if the measure is going to fail anyway, according to recent polls. But at least it’s rather comforting to know that despite producing the Red Cross, Roger Federer and lots of delicious chocolate, the Swiss have their troubles too.