After group initiative no – the Greens shake the booth more


The Greens and the Young Socialists want to abolish the number of estates or at least replace it with a qualified majority. You will have a hard time with this proposal.

The Bernese National Councilor Regula Rytz is committed to a qualified group of more.
The Bernese National Councilor Regula Rytz is committed to a qualified group of more.

Photo: Peter Schneider (Keystone)

The corporate responsibility initiative would have needed twelve professional votes. Eight and a half cantons said yes. Only a total of 6000 voters in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Glarus, Schaffhausen and Uri would have had to vote differently – and the initiative would have achieved a majority of the cantons in addition to the popular majority. The verdict was the closest in Glarus. There the opponents won with a difference of 608 votes.

It is only the second popular initiative in which the majority of the cantons overturned the majority of the electorate. This leads to displeasure: “Our direct democracy is in trouble,” says Bernese National Councilor Regula Rytz (Greens). The small cantons have a very large influence at the ballot box. Another problem is that French-speaking Switzerland is regularly outvoted as a minority.

“There is a risk that popular initiatives will no longer have a chance.”

Regula Rytz, (Greens, BE)

“We have to talk about how we can get to a fairer voting mode,” says Rytz. She envisions a qualified group of cantons with which the cantons can only override a popular majority if two thirds of the cantons disagree. Then the initiative would have been accepted. The Greens had already proposed corresponding models in the early 1990s. These solutions will now be brought out again. Otherwise there is a risk that popular initiatives will no longer have a chance of being adopted despite majorities. “That weakens direct democracy.”

Rytz gets support from the Young Socialists. They even demand that the number of estates be abolished entirely. It could not be that popular initiatives that would gain a majority in the people would not be implemented because of an outdated regulation of the cantonal majority.

Do not question the rules of the game

The parent party SP does not see it as dramatic. You can talk about anything, says Co-President Cédric Wermuth. But he is not a friend of questioning the rules of the game on a voting Sunday just because it ran out. Rather, the left must analyze exactly how it can be done in these cantons.

It sounds similar to the opponents. “Anyone who wants to change the rules of the game now is a bad loser,” says Ruedi Noser, Zurich’s FDP Councilor. It is correct that one cannot change the constitution with a very small majority of votes. “The threshold with double more is already deep today, in most associations a two-thirds more is needed to change the statutes.”

“The abolition of the number of estates, in turn, needs the number of estates.”

Michael Hermann, Politgeograf

“You can always have a debate,” says the political geographer Michael Hermann, “and of course it’s nicer when the votes counted and the stands point in the same direction.” It is no coincidence that there has hardly ever been a people without a group of groups in initiatives, says Hermann. Initiatives from the left have so far only been able to win a majority if they also had a conservative element such as the Alpine Initiative. These were therefore not exactly along the urban-rural contrast, so that the Ständemehr was not a stumbling block. “If the urban-rural contrast continues to increase and the inhibition threshold for agreeing to left-wing urban initiatives decreases, this could well lead to widespread dissatisfaction with the number of estates,” he says. Hermann suspects, however, that the debate will not get very far for two reasons. “Firstly, the abolition of the number of estates is again necessary, and secondly, institutional rules that have been around for a very long time can hardly be changed.”

“More stands ensures cohesion”

Andrea Gmür, Lucerne’s CVP Councilor of States, is against a change in the number of cantons. “Our country lives off balance, even with the less large cantons and a population that thinks differently than those in the cities,” she says. The estates provide for urgently needed social cohesion, which one should not risk just because one does not like a voting result. And Jürg Grossen, President of the Green Liberals, said twice: “When votes are so tight and the majority of the cantons reject them, then one should refrain from writing anything in the constitution.” Switzerland was not doing badly with that.

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