How the Swiss Government Gets the Answers it Wants to Ballot Questions

Ava Lon, who translates French, German, and Polish for us, used to live in Switzerland and has Swiss citizenship. In the following account she describes the sneaky way the Swiss government manipulates “direct democracy” to get the results it wants in referendums and ballot questions.

How the Swiss Government Gets the Answers it Wants to Ballot Questions

by Ava Lon

Swiss people have a very sensitive point: Their wallet. They don’t like to share it, they don’t want to lose it, they want to control its contents, and really hate it when the government tries to put its sticky fingers inside.

It’s been a while since I noticed that in Switzerland, like almost everywhere else in the West, it doesn’t matter anymore what party is in power: it’s always the progressives. As such, they have a progressive agenda, and we almost didn’t notice how and when it happened, because it happened — you guessed it — progressively .

Still, or maybe because of that, I don’t miss one opportunity to vote through the mail, whenever Switzerland is voting. I do that because I care about this country that opened its doors to me. I try to repay their hospitality by making sure I participate in the political process, so nothing bad happens on my watch. Not that I am so important, but like all Swiss, I am being asked about almost everything by the government, because the rule is that the citizens, not the parliament and not the government, have the last word.

And I am not even talking about the referendums Switzerland is quite famous for. No: every little detail might be decided by the citizens on a county, cantonal or federal level. Those are not elections, nor referendums; this is a normal process of governing the country. Referendums, if they happen, and they often do, require the citizens to collect 100,000 signatures and deposit them in Bern to start the process of preparation for the referendum. When everything is ready for a vote, a referendum question will be sent to me by mail with all others questions, mostly concerning finances.

When I was living near Zurich in a small town called Dübendorf, our street was in a terrible state. Hard to believe, when you know how much Swiss care about the looks of their towns and cities. Almost every inch of this street, however, was the pure definition of a pothole, and some of those holes seemed to be the very bottomless pit brought to us by Revelation.

We were quite puzzled by that sight, my Swiss husband and I, but very soon we found out the reason: the voting papers arrived by mail, as usual, and inside was the question concerning not only that county, but also our street. The question was: would you like to ask for 500,000 CHF (Swiss francs) credit from such-and -such bank to fix that road? Our road. There! We thought: Thank God, it’ll be taken care of . And we voted ‘yes’ to the credit. To our surprise on the next day, the rest of the county voted ‘no’. “What does it mean? You can already see China through those holes!” My husband was ranting. “We are already driving 5mph over here. Are they crazy? They should all come here, before voting like that!”

Now, this is how we, the people living on that street, saw that voting question. The rest of the voters, however saw: half a million francs that they will have to pay from their pockets…

The Swiss people know two things: credits have eventually be paid back, and there’s no such thing as government money or even taxpayer money: it’s their money. Their sweat and blood. So no, no credit for that street. It took three years to have it decided, but this time I suppose everybody in the village experienced our street with the wheels of their own car. Now, that was long and painful!

Well, this is direct democracy for you, and it is good to feel responsible for what’s yours, like your town, or your county, or your country. And no politician can take that away from you, because you have the last word. Or have you?

The progressive politicians coming under the names of all parties (except for one, yes, the one that media calls right-wing, racist, xenophobic and ignorant) are really upset about that direct democracy; they would like so badly to align with wonderful and generous people like Angela Merkel or François Hollande, who are “generously” sharing what is not theirs: “their” countries, with whoever feels like moving in. Swiss people would have to decide on this too, you see; that would be the law, since they decide even about a street no longer than a quarter of a mile.

Now the Swiss, like that xenophobic party of theirs, don’t know what is truly good for them. Politicians have been trying to “fix” that for some time already. When it proved impossible to get rid of the idea of referendum and direct democracy, they started looking at the questions that the citizens are being asked, when they vote. What if the question were confusing? What if there was double negation, so people wouldn’t know what this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would mean eventually? What if the question being asked would stress not the issue, but its cost? The Swiss are so sensitive to the costs of everything they pay for. They actually like to be able to afford what they are buying, and hate the idea of printing the money to pretend the country is richer than it really is. Crazy, right?

So that’s how it went: a couple of weeks ago we were asked about the asylum procedures being shortened. It sounded good, and the bulletin everyone gets along with the voting papers explained that it will be cheaper for the taxpayers when applications by foreigners applying for asylum would have to be processed, by law, in three months instead of a year.

“Do you want that?” the question was asked . “Sure,” I thought. “There will be fewer meals to pay for, less electricity, less everything, and they will know about their future sooner. Fantastic.” And I voted ‘yes’. Stupid cow. That would be me. Like most of the voters, which I found out the day after, I fell into the trap. Most of us said ‘yes’. You know what it really means? The word will get around, that the Swiss procedures are very fast. The crowd will turn in our direction. Exactly what “generous” progressives, who worded the question, wanted.

Why didn’t I realize that the more important issue would be: what are the conditions for a person to be given asylum? And: are people who threw their passports away still being considered? (As is the standard procedure for “Syrian” refugees.)

Or: will their families be able to join? Who, exactly? Aunties and uncles as well? All the wives? (and no, not all four, because in “sub-Saharan Syria” where lots of them come from, there are sometimes more than four.)

I didn’t ask any of those questions. They didn’t even cross my mind. Instead I, along with my fellows citizens, swallowed the hook, and, wanting to be responsible and careful with money, we actually invited the barbarian hordes in.

11 thoughts on “How the Swiss Government Gets the Answers it Wants to Ballot Questions

  1. Now the only way to get them deported will be armed insurrection, and firing all the Progressives, with 7.62mm

  2. Well, the thing is, voting is only part of the job. Deliberation together in public fora is the other half of the equation. And if you do go and deliberate together, then it’s much harder to fool people. Somebody will flush out the hidden information.

    This also helps: when the booklet regarding the ballot is being prepared, then both pro and con arguments must be made, in fairness. The League of Women Voters used to do that in the States, I don’t know if they still do.

  3. Isn’t that an example of fraud perpetrated by the government? The problem with governments is the proverbial one: who watches the watchman? Is the government the be all and end all? Are they really accountable to anyone? Forget about the sham of election. Politicians come and go. That’s all elections are about.

    The actions they take in the name of government action are criminal when performed outside of government. And we believe we punish politicians by voting them out of office when we don’t like their policies. That’s no punishment at all. They get to retire with pensions at public’s expense and they use their resume and their connections to their financial advantage. When does being voted out of office cause a politician to suffer a loss? There are so many examples where they appear to do even better after leaving office. So, what’s the punishment! The one I could accept without any remorse, if I were much degenerated?

    • A situation dating back to Imperial Rome, for sure: “Quis custodet ipsos custodes?” (Who will watch the watchers?)

  4. Ava Lon’s article and attitude are most appreciated.

    Regarding the specific vote it may be added that the minister of justice, a socialist lady who never studied law and never completed any other discipline, proposed assigning a lawyer to every migrant who declares himself as asylum seeker at the expense of the tax payer. Meanwhile annual direct expenses for migration are at about CHF 500 per citizen or approx. 5’000’000’000 Swiss Francs. Besides the lunacy of setting Switzerland to trial by migrants and paying their attorneys, the key problem of said vote was not acceleration of proceedings per se, but acceleration at the input side only.

    A further subtlety of the vote was that the government got empowered to confiscate buildings against the will of the voters.

    Latest folly of the progressives in power was transferring 60 male migrants to a mountain village with 600 inhabitants above the lake of Lucerne; into a hotel next to the school.

    On your next trip to the Swiss mountains don’t be surprised if you wake up in Somalia or Eritrea next morning.

    To round up the story the prime attack on democracy by progressives was executed under the euphemism “Democrazia Vivainta” (Vivid democracy) behind closed doors of the Bundeshaus (the central government building) without any legal authorisation but on the expense of the tax payer.

    The target was to extend the mechansims for nullifing critical initiatives that would not meet defined or not yet defined international standards or simply the moral standards of the progressives.

    Hence, our progressive friends simply intended to decide themselves over political issues before forwarding a related initiative to the dumb and retarded voter:

    Democrazia Vivainta (sic(k)!)

  5. …it’s always the progressives.

    What to do about that? Voting is…what it is. (The most inane of the modern phrases–in violent competition with, “It’s all good.”)

  6. and the Swiss people don’t know that their bureaucrats were trained by ours? We get ballot questions with double negatives, Congress writes bills with double negatives, Lawyers and judges get rulings with double negatives — so that we cannot easily understand their subterfuge. I agree, fire them with 7.62.

    • At last! My chance! California did something right, and I can tell all y’all about it.

      California ruled out “double negative” and “misleading” ballot summaries several (over 10) years ago. All propositions, ballot initiatives, and referenda must be phrased such that a voter in favor of the action suggested votes YES for that action to occur, and one opposed (my position, more often than not) votes NO.

      Ballot-legal in California: “Shall the State of California enact a bond in an amount not to exceed $5 billion [random number] for the authorization of improvements to K-12 school buildings throughout the state?”

      Not ballot-legal in California: “Do the voters support a bond of $5 billion to improve K-12 school buildings throughout the state, except in counties south of the Tehachapis?” ==> A voter cannot tell whether a YES vote supports the bond or the exception of the 10 southernmost counties (where a vast % of the state population lives). See for the cross-state “boundary” line; it runs directly west to east from the Pacific Ocean to the Nevada state line.

      Too bad this kind of thing–as well as a legal *requirement* for a revelation of what the proposed measure MEANT–isn’t required in Helvetia.

      So California voters can no longer kvetch 😉 and moan the day after an election, when it turns out that they *should* have voted the other way. Nope. Just read the thing. Support it? ==> Vote YES. Hate it? ==> Vote NO.

  7. It’s not limited to Switzerland. Happens here all the time. I was tricked by it once too, though the issue was a little less serious… Something about gambling regulation.

  8. I think the criticism is unfair. The text about asylum seekers was exactly the text of the law written by parliament, and it was clear to anybody that it had absolutely nothing to do with the criteria by which the asylum demands will be judged, which are loosely defined in the prior law but essentially depend on instructions given by the Socialist Simonetta (and which probably are quite different from those of her predecessor Blocher.) One always votes on the text of the law, to accept or not. Since I remember the Swiss vote on whether to join the European Economy area, I knew from the start that Brexit will win (and that was very much against the parliamentary majority).

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