June 8 The Swiss parliament is debating whether
to allow a facultative referendum on a Swiss-U.S. tax deal that
would could derail an agreement to deliver bank data of 4,450
UBS clients who dodge U.S. taxes to Washington.[ID:nLDE6570NF]
Frequent referendums are a key element of Switzerland's
unique tradition of direct democracy and a central feature of
In Switzerland, referendums are held at federal, cantonal
and municipal level. It is not the government's choice whether
or when a referendum is held, but it is a legal procedure
regulated by the Swiss constitution.
There are three types of referendums:
** Facultative referendum: Any federal law, certain federal
resolutions, and international treaties that are perpetual or
irredeemable, joinings of an international organization, or that
change Swiss law may be subject to a facultative referendum if
at least 50,000 people or eight cantons have petitioned to do so
within 100 days of its coming into force.
Within cantons and municipalities, the required number of
people is smaller.
The facultative referendum is the most common type of
referendum, and it is mostly carried out by political parties or
by interest groups.
** Obligatory referendum: it takes place at national level
on any amendment of the constitution and decisions to join
multinational community or an organization for collective
*** Citizen's initiative: while the two previous types of
referendums are votes on existing legislation, this type of
referendum gives citizens the right to initiate law.
Citizen's initiatives at the federal level need to collect
100,000 valid signatures within 18 months, and must not
contradict international laws or treaties.
(Reporting by Christopher Barnett, London Editorial Reference
Unit; Editing by Louise Heavens)