|Standard bearer of 1542 |
showing the heraldic bear for Bern.
Switzerland is known for its direct democracy where Volkesstimme (the voice of the people) can overturn decisions of parliament and government through a referendum and an initiative. Just 50000 signatures out of a population of 8 million are needed to launch a referendum against a newly passed law proposing at the same time a new text. Once the referendum is adopted by the majority of the people and that of the 23 cantons the result will topple any decision by parliament.
Our group got a lesson in direct democracy and the question always arises why we do not have more of a direct democracy in Germany? The argument frequently brought up is: National referenda work for a population of 8 million but are impractical for a population ten times as big. I rather think the reason why a more direct democratic system works in Switzerland is the art of consensus. All major parties are presented in the Swiss government composed of seven Bundesräte (ministers) where much care is taken considering and incorporating the views of minorities in their decisions. Nearly all the time parliament and government find a compromise satisfying the majority of the people without hurting the minority too much. Happy Switzerland!
In the 1990s the rightwinger and multimillionaire Christoph Blocher with his slogan Switzerland for the Swiss made the Schweizerische Volkspartei the strongest party in parliament with 29% of the votes. That not only gave the SVP two seats in the seven-member government but in 2003 he himself was elected Bundesrat. For four years he showed his Janus face forcing himself into a consensus with his colleagues from the other parties represented in the government but making right-wing opposition in parliament. He, the deep-rooted Swiss, clearly overstepped the line of consensus such that in 2007 parliament did not re-elect him. Now he is back in the Nationalrat as a deputy for the Canton of Zurich.
|Inactive Blocher leaving parliament after his defeat in 2007.|
|Active Blocher with charm and rhetorical power debating with us, the people |
from the big canton in the north. Dr. Michel Wehner from the
Baden-Württemberg State Center for Political Education,
our efficient guide, conducted the debate professionally.
The major issue of disagreement is Swiss banking secrecy. The black money German tax cheaters have bunkered in Swiss banks is estimated to amount to a couple of billion euros. A painstakingly negotiated compromise between the two governments about more transparency in the Swiss bank sector was eventually accepted by the German Bundestag (congress) but turned down in the German Bundesrat (senate). So we are back to square one whereas the US presently seems more successful at imposing a Lex USA on to Switzerland with respect to the money of American citizens in Switzerland.
|The Bundesplatz (Federal Square) in front of the Bundeshaus in Bern should rather be |
called Bank Square. All big Swiss Banks have their seats and lobbyists on this square.
In the back the UBS is flying the Bern flag.
|Bertoldo V Duci Zaeringae conditori urbis Bernae. Bertold V founded Bern in 1191 |
whereas Freiburg had become a city with Konrad, his great-uncle, already in 1120.
|E bellua casae sit futura nomen |
Legend has it that the first animal sighted should give the new place its name.
It was a bear.
|A lazy bear on display in Bern's bear pit.|
|Old town hall built from 1406 to 1417, beautifully restored .|