There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
Direct Democracy means that voters control the processes and powers of their government. Direct Democracy empowers the citizens regardless of the wishes of either government or parliament.
Citizen voters can also implement their Direct Democracy powers at all levels of authority.i.e national, regional, council and local municipality.
Direct Democracy can not be controlled to suit party-political or other vested interests from the government or parliament and most certainly from professional lobbyists.
The Swiss model of Direct Democracy has three main procedures;
First - if Parliament wishes to add to or change the constitution, any such proposed change must be approved or rejected by a national mandatory referendum vote.
Second – the optional or facultative referendum ensures that parliament’s new or proposed new laws are exposed to the voter’s scrutiny to receive final approval or rejection. Petitioners require 50,000 valid signatures.
Thirdly – Citizen’s Initiatives, citizens have the right to make legislative proposals to be decided by a referendum vote if the proposal gains the support of 100,000 voters.
Note 1. The Swiss voter numbers quoted are for a population of 8 million. The New Zealand situation of 3.400,000 registered voters would warrant figures like 35,000 and 70,000 respectively.
Note 2. At regional, city/town and local levels, the citizens would arrange their Direct Democracy petition levels to reflect the local situation.
New Zealand currently operates under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system of government. New Zealand’s legal arrangements and the provisions of MMP allow for the introduction of Direct Democracy and we already have provision for referenda to be binding – if the politicians allow.
The TOOLS of MODERN DIRECT DEMOCRACY SWISS STYLE
The Tools of Modern Direct Democracy are the Voter’s ongoing mechanism to steer the Parliamentary processes and to direct the administration to carry out voter’s instructions.
The model below is based on the application of direct democracy in the Federation of Switzerland. It is a voter-centred system of direct democracy operating at all levels of government; national, regional and local.
The Swiss People have “democratised democracy” and they control their politicians and administration.
Tool #1: Facultative Referendum, also called Optional or Popular Referendum;
Parliament’s new laws, or changes to existing laws are exposed to the Facultative Referendum. If required, this referendum gives the People the final word, to approve or reject legislation in a referendum vote. To initiate this referendum the activists must collect 50,000 signatures over 100 days, to trigger the referendum process.
The Facultative/Optional/Popular Referendum option gives voters an opportunity to “apply the brakes” to the government’s laws.
Tool#2: Citizen’s Initiative/Direct Initiative/Popular Initiative;
Citizens have the right to make legislative proposals that will be decided by a referendum vote. The activists must collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months. If successful then the proposed legislation goes to a Referendum to and if a simple majority of voters support the legislation, the result is binding.
The Citizens/Direct/Popular Initiative gives voters the opportunity to nominate their own legislation and to put this before the vote of the electorate.
Tool#3: Government Initiated Referendum;
Proposed additions or changes to the constitution go to a mandatory binding referendum.
Used at Regional and Council level to remove an elected councillor or official for criminal or improper behaviour and/or misconduct.
The People are empowered to control their elected officials’ post-election, as required.
|Tools of Direct Democracy||Agenda setter||Initiator||Approver|
|Government Initiated Referendum (Binding)||Elected Government||Government||The People (voters)|
|Facultative/Optional/Popular Referendum ||Parliament||Voter activists|
50,000 signatures in 100 days
|Citizen’s/Direct/Popular Initiative||Voters (The people)||Voter activists|
100,000 signatures in eighteen months
Regional Councils – City Councils and local Municipalities
|Facultative/Optional/Popular Referendum||Elected Council||Voter activists |
Recommend 1% signatures required
|Citizen’s/Direct/Popular Initiative||Voters||Voter activists|
|Recall Referendum||Voters||Voter activists|