Switzerland’s direct democracy – swissinfo

Together with neutrality and federalism, direct democracy is a part of the Swiss national identity and helps unite the various languages, religions and cultures in the country. This video gives you a short instruction to this unique political system. (Michele Andina, swissinfo.ch for ASO)
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Voters endorse labour accord with EU

euA key bilateral accord with the European Union on open labour markets has won a clear majority at the ballot box. Switzerland’s rightwing parties, which forced the nationwide vote, suffered a defeat on Sunday February 8, as nearly 60 per cent of voters backed the government and a broad alliance of parties, organisations and the business community.

Official results show 59.6 per cent of the electorate approving a proposal to continue a labour accord with 25 EU states and at the same time extend the agreement to the newest members Bulgaria and Romania.

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Blocher’s long march to the top stopped

blocher.jpgThe Swiss parliament has thrown a spanner in the works: by refusing to re-elect populist rightwing politician Christoph Blocher to the seven-member cabinet, the federal assembly has decided his brand of politics is no longer acceptable. Instead, a temporary alliance of Greens, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats, along with a support cast of Radicals has chosen another member of Blocher’s People’s Party for the government – and a woman to boot – Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, canton Graubünden’s finance minister. The People’s Party says that it will now become an opposition party and that if any of its members besides Blocher is elected to cabinet, it will turn its back on them. Widmer-Schlumpf has accepted the job despite the threats/blackmail. Blocher’s dream of becoming president in 2009 has evaporated as well…

Another day, another election in Switzerland

mouton.jpgIt looks like Switzerland’s electoral scene has undergone a slight change. Latest results from the federal elections – held once every four years – show that the rightwing People’s Party has reinforced its position as the country’s most influential party after running a controversial campaign, while the Greens have also posted gains. The centre-left Social Democrats have on the other hand taken a beating, especially in the German-speaking part of the country. One of the day’s consolation prizes for the Social Democrats was the election of the country’s first naturalised African parliamentarian, Ricardo Lumengo. The People’s Party president, Ueli Maurer, immediately suggested turfing out the three oldest members of the cabinet, although he avoided mentioning his boss’ name – justice minister Christoph Blocher who is already beyond the official retirement age. Some analysts and editorialists are saying its now time for the People’s Party to put up or shut up, ie make some concrete proposals other than bans. Others are warning though that the populist movement might find it hard to leave its comfort zone and get out of opposition mode.

Staid Swiss politics becomes a battlefield

bern1.jpgSwiss politics is finally getting the attention of the world’s media. Police in the capital, Bern, clashed on Saturday with leftwing militants who tried to interrupt a planned election rally by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party. The widely condemned violence is just another sign of rising tensions ahead of parliamentary elections in two weeks time. Justice Minister Christoph Blocher – who is also the party’s figurehead – accused the activists of seeking to suppress freedom of speech. Journalists noted that he also looked like a cat who’d just caught a mouse – rather pleased to be able to portray himself once again as a victim of the Left. The militants who stopped the People’s Party march were mostly members of the so-called Black Block, who’ve made a name for themselves in the past in Zurich, Basel and Bern after clashing with the police on a regular basis. Reports popped up on the BBC and Euronews, as well as in the Guardian, the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune. However, it should be pointed out that is nothing really new: 12 years ago, the same thing happened with same protagonists in Zurich. Security specialists also insist the Black Block is not a major security threat. For the alternative view of what happened, Indymedia Switzerland has provided this report.

Bloschacher debate goes nowhere

blocher.gifSwitzerland’s politicians once again showed their feebleness – or lack of power – in parliament. After many of them called for an urgent debate about Justice Minister Christoph Blocher’s turbulent relationship with the federal prosecutor’s office, the whole business fell flat on its face. Members of Blocher’s rightwing People’s Party lined up to defend their man against accusations he had plotted to get rid of federal prosecutor Valentin Roschacher when he wasn’t allowed to fire him – it’s all a plot your honour to get rid of our boss! These people are either members of the John Birch Society or fans of the Diana conspiracy theory. Their opponents took turns to blast away at the justice minister, saying he had failed to respect the separation between the executive and judicial powers as stated by a parliamentary committee. As for television viewers, all they got after all this was Blocher stating he did no wrong, and President Micheline Calmy-Rey claiming that the other members of government weren’t asking for the justice minister’s head. All in all a good day to show Swiss voters just ahead of this month’s federal elections that members of parliament weren’t all napping…

German Neo-Nazis look to Swiss

npd.jpgThe German neo-Nazi NPD party has apparently come to Switzerland looking for inspiration according to Swiss media. Their latest poster has drawn on the rightwing Swiss People’s Party’s controversial “black sheep” campaign that is being used ahead of this month’s federal elections. The NPD’s section in Hessen has confirmed it cribbed the Swiss party’s idea (“we saw it on internet”), although it did not attempt to contact it. The People’s Party has not yet decided if it will pursue the matter through the courts.