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Swiss voters reject plan for more democracy

Swiss voters yesterday dealt a heavy defeat to a plan for more referendums on international treaties.

A nationalist group wanted voters to have an automatic say when the government signs a major agreement. But with votes from 17 of 26 cantons counted, none had voted in favour. Opponents of the move won 73.3 per cent support, TV reported. Since a proposal needs a majority of both voters and cantons to pass, that meant it had failed – as had been expected.

Most major parties opposed the plan, saying it could cause gridlock with constant ballot calls. Switzerland already holds about half a dozen national referendums each year as well as local ones. All it takes is 50,000 signatures to force a national vote on a new law or treaty in Switzerland, a country of more than seven million people. The bar is higher – at 100,000 signatures – if grassroots groups want to propose new legislation. But these sorts of measures are often voted on and are sometimes successful.