On May 18th., more than five million Swiss citizens went to the polls. A notable referendum to decide on the government purchase of 22 Swedish combat aircraft. The question was simple: "Do you accept the Federal Act of 27th., September 2013, regarding the acquisition of the Gripen fighter ?". A question that the Swiss answered ''No'' to, by more than 53 % of the vote. The debate is therefore closed. Here's why.
In fact, in Switzerland, the people participate directly, and regularly, in the political decision-making process. Four times a year, a referendum is organized on various themes related to health, defense or the economy. To determine which subject should be submitted to the verdict of the polls, the principle is simple, just one percent of Swiss voters putting pen to paper is sufficient.
To contest a law adopted or amended by parliament, it is sufficient to create a committee to collect a list of 50,000 signatures from citizens eligible to vote, and of course, deposit it at the Federal Chancellery within 100 days of the publication of the relevant act or law. The political measures concerned will then be automatically taken into account in the following referendum.
As was the case for the Swedish combat aircraft. The "Anti-Gripen Committee", filed more than 100,000 signatures in January, and the case was put to the vote in the same way as a matter concerning a rise in the minimum wage, and another for basic medical care.
With double the number of signatures, Swiss citizens can also propose constitutional amendments. This is what is called ''the popular initiative''. In 1993, the "Group for a Switzerland without an Army" wanted the country to refrain from buying new fighter jets until 2000, and therefore deposited a popular initiative. However, 57% of voters rejected the idea at the time, and three years later, the Swiss Air Force received its first F-18 of the 34 ordered.
With this system, the Swiss, therefore, have, and take an active role, together with all that that implies, in the political decisions of their country, and they seem to like the idea. As proof, the turnout in the last referendum was over 56%.