Last week there was an election in Switzerland. I thought I would talk a little bit about the different referenda that were on the ballot, and then talk a little about voting.

In some ways Switzerland and the United States are very similar. Both places practice a representative democracy. Both countries have federal rules for voting, but give freedom to the lower levels (states and cantons) to take care of the details. The two countries have a checkered past in regards to who is able to vote. The biggest differences, that I see, are: 1) individuals can gather signatures and get a referendum on a national ballot in Switzerland. That exists at the state level in the US, but not the national level. 2) Switzerland relies very heavily on mail in ballots, and is testing internet voting in some cantons. Another difference is that Switzerland does not rely on any machines for voting. In larger areas they do have ballot reading machines, but other than the internet voting all of the votes are cast on paper ballots. Oh, another similarity between the two countries. The voter turnout is very similar between the two countries. For “big” elections in Switzerland turnout is usually around 60%, Just as in the US during a presidential election.

So here were the big items on the ballot:

  • Repeal the powers from the Federal Government in regards to fighting the COVID epidemic
  • Prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides
  • Clean water initiatives for farmers
  • Limit C02 emissions by 2030
  • Anti Terrorism initiative

The terrorism initiative passed, but all of the rest failed. I think those results would be similar if they were held in the US. After you read a little about them, please comment and tell me if you agree.


In 2020 a law was passed by the Federal Assembly (Swiss Congress; it is composed of two houses just like in the US.) giving the government powers to combat the pandemic. These powers included mask mandates, limits to travel and assembly, investments into Covid research, and allocated money to pay for the vaccines and the social safety net. There is a group of people that believe those measures were unconstitutional; but when the courts did not agree the group organized the campaign to get repeal of the law put on the ballot. Even though we are on the downhill side of this pandemic, the legislation would have limited government response for future pandemics, or future waves of the current pandemic.

This was defeated by 60.2 percent.

synthetic pesticides

This law would banned use of synthetic pesticides for the whole country. It would have also banned fresh food products from any country that did not have a ban in place. The last sentence seems to be in some debate, so I was really glad it did not pass. Some people were reading the law that only food that had been treated with pesticides would have been banned, others were reading it as ALL food from a country that used synthetic pesticides would have been banned. That is a pretty big difference, and I would have not liked to see what happened to my food bill while it was being ironed out in the courts.

This was defeated by over 60% of the vote.

Clean Water

The referenda called this a clean water bill, but it was really a farming bill. The law would have removed all government subsidies from any farmer that uses pesticides or anti-biotics. It also would have placed severe restrictions on spreading manure over the fields.

This was defeated by about 60% of the vote.

CO2 Emissions

This law would have required Switzerland to go back to 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by 2030. It would have raised taxes on fuel, gasoline, and airline tickets. The secondary goal of this bill was to have zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

This one was actually pretty close. About 53% of the people voted against this one.

My commentary is that because it is so easy to get things on the ballot here, this one will for sure be coming up again, and in another couple of years, I can see it passing. I think that it will make living in a very expensive place, almost impossible for the average person.

Anti-Terror Law

This one was put on the ballot after the terror attacks that France has had the last year or two. The law grants a lot of power to the federal and local police departments. It allows police to take “preventative” measures against potential terrorists.

This law did pass.


I honestly do not have a lot to say about many of the laws, but after watching the discussion about these, and doing some research I learned how close the US and Switzerland really are. I did not know this, but the US Founding Fathers based a lot of our constitution and organization of the USA off of Switzerland. After living here for almost two years now. I really can see the fight between “States Rights” and “Federalism”. It is one thing to see these take place in the US where there is a lot of space. Here this is compacted and it has been very interesting to watch things evolve.

I was a little sad that the Anti-Terror law passed. Not because I support terrorism, but because the older I get, the more questioning I become of people. I am becoming more and more convinced that most of our political leaders are not looking out for the interest of “everyone” but only for themselves. I have followed what President Trump tried to get the Department of Justice to do and can easily see those kind of things coming true here as well. Especially because the law says that political intent can now be classified as terrorism even if there is no threat of violence. I understand being able to stop violence, and that has my full support, but the thought of arresting someone and classifying them as a terrorist simply because they want to take political action against a law or politician goes against everything I thought a free country stood for.

2 thoughts on “Elections

  1. So George, silly question … but does that mean that the swiss people voted in favor of the government having the ability to respond in a similar method again for pandemic type situations in the future? I am assuming, yes, but it’s hard for me to follow. Also, I think if the american people were given the right to vote on that again you’d see the republican states going against it and the democratic states going the opposite and that would be a disaster!

    1. Yes and no. :). What this particular referendum would have done is make it illegal for the government to put any more restrictions on for COVID, and would have made illegal any restrictions that had already been put in place. At least that is my understanding of the proposed law.

      That being said, I think you would be able to look to the future, and since the Govt. could not put any restrictions on for COVID, how could they put restrictions on for any pandemic?

      After looking at the multiple referenda on the ballot, I am kind of seeing the flaw in making it so easy to get things on the ballot. IMO, many of the ones being voted on this time would have been very dangerous to the livelihood of the country if they had passed.

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