September 15, 2006 7:27am CST
We were told democracy was the solution to all the problems facing mankind,but i dont think so.in this new millenium we are faced with many challenges i.e terrorism, fundamentalism,inequity,poverty. just to mention a few, what do you think is the way forward ???
25 Sep 06
i certainly agree with ur view. There are some advantage and disvantage like: Advantages Direct democracy has a significant and positive influence in promoting integration among citizens throughout the country and ensures that everyone in the very diverse Swiss population is permanently engaged with the political issues which affect them all. Switzerland is a country with four cultures and four languages, held together only because that is what its people want. And it is not only language that divides the country: religion does so too. Immediately prior the foundation of the federal state, the Protestant and Catholic cantons had been fighting against each other in the Sonderbund civil war. By using the instruments of direct democracy, any group can make their views heard in the political arena. They can oppose a law or a statute passed by Parliament by calling for a referendum. Raising concerns in this way leads to debate among the citizens that further encourages mutual understanding and sensitises people to the needs and concerns of others. But not only the citizens can make use of democratic rights – cantons can also do so. If eight cantons demand an optional referendum on new legislation, a referendum has to be held. The optional referendum requested by the cantons is an instrument of vertical federalism. It allows the cantons to influence the decisions made by the federal government. It integrates the cantons into national politics and gives them a safeguarding role, as they can exercise a veto against unpopular decisions made by the federal government. The political system in Switzerland is very stable. From 1959 to 2003, the Federal Council was made up of the same number of representatives of the main political parties; in the parliamentary elections there was relatively little movement in the standings of the parties. As a result of the gains made by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) in the elections in 1999 and 2003, however, Federal Council elections in December 2003 saw the CVP (Christian Democratic Party) lose one of their two seats to the SVP. This stability has led to great continuity in the work of government. Whether this is a consequence of direct democracy is open to debate and has yet to be proven. Many experts point out, however, that direct democracy can be regarded as promoting stability. The following reasons can be given for this: - Direct democracy makes access to the political system easier and directs the “pressure from the streets” into institutional channels - It forces the political elite to take account of the views of the people at all times - It allows conflicts to come into the open and then resolves them once and for all - It gives a chance to the underdog - It has a corrective influence on the power of the state, without being an opposing power. The system of direct democracy also promotes consensus, or leads to a system of consensus. In order to minimise the risk of a referendum, a compromise based on the lowest common denominator must be found in the legislative process. By including all the important political parties in government, the risk of a referendum is minimised. Consensus governments normally tend to last longer – they do not change after the life of a parliament. This has an additional stabilising effect on the political system. A law or article in the Constitution that has been approved not only by Parliament but also by a majority of the People and in some cases a majority of the cantons as well, has a high degree of legitimacy. The more people that decide on a bill, the greater the legitimacy of the decision. Direct democracy thus increases the source of legitimacy for political decisions. Neither Parliament nor the Federal Council has the right to alter popular decisions. Disadvantages Direct democracy, however, not only has advantages, it also has a number of disadvantages. Among the main disadvantages are the low level of innovation engendered and the laboriousness of the decision-making process – although some commentators see even these as strengths. In the legislative process, an attempt is made in Parliament to find a compromise that minimises the chances of a referendum. The referendum compels the major political forces in the country to work together in the political arena and to resolve conflicts through negotiation and compromise. They try to achieve a solution based on the lowest common denominator, to avoid the need for a referendum. Amendments to the law that contain little in the way of serious changes have a better chance of being approved without provoking a call for an optional referendum. But finding a solution by turning to the lowest common denominator inhibits change and innovation. The instrument of the optional referendum has little potential as a tool for change and simply promotes the status quo. This lack of innovative power was criticised in the 1990s in particular as an obstacle to international competitiveness. However, recent studies have indicated that the opposite is true. (see: “Added-value voting” in section “Impact”). Direct democracy enables large numbers of people to participate and commit their energies to the political process. As a result, the road to a decision can be a very long one that may take years to complete. The main sacrifice is efficiency. The long process and the many debates on a bill lead to inefficiency. In most cases, the process is not only long, there also have to be many compromises made, with the result that the price of reaching a decision can turn out to be very high. It is the optional referendum that is most widely regarded as the major weakness in the Swiss system of direct democracy. It operates as a veto or a brake in the political system. New laws or amendments can be overturned by the referendum. The referendum can be invoked not against the individual article of a new federal law that is unpopular, but only against the law as a whole. In the referendum only a majority of those who turn out to vote is required, which makes it considerably easier for the referendum to succeed. The right of referendum is therefore most advantageous to conservative forces and has an inhibiting effect on innovation. The Federal Council and Parliament intended to tackle the various weaknesses in direct democracy in the 1990s by means of a complete revision of the Federal Constitution and later through the revision of the legislation on popular rights. But in the revision of the Federal Constitution, fears that the entire project would founder on the issue of popular rights meant that it was decided not to amend them. In the subsequent revision of the law on popular rights (referendum of 9 February 2003), after lengthy debate Parliament managed to agree on only a small number of changes: along with a number of insignificant reforms the general popular initiative was introduced as a new instrument