swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Indirect and direct democracy

Collecting signatures for a popular initiative (in new window)

Collecting signatures for the popular initiative: "For a rational cannabis policy with effective protection of young people", July 2004© swissworld.org

In Switzerland, as in all democratic countries, citizens elect representatives to act on their behalf.

But Switzerland gives its citizens the chance to take a direct part in decision-making as well. Although direct democracy is by no means unique to Switzerland - Italy and many US states are among those who also give voters an important decision-making role - the Swiss system is probably the most extensive in the world.

Swiss citizens can both propose legislation of their own, or thwart legislation already approved by parliament.

The only case in which parliament can override this right is if it decides that the motion being proposed is unconstitutional, or if it violates international law.

Video: Switzerland’s direct democracy

A brief introduction to the Swiss political system.

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 introduction to this unique political system. (Produced by swissinfo.ch on behalf of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad)