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What remains of Swiss democracy after the coronavirus measures?

On March 16 the Swiss government declared an “extraordinary situation” due to coronavirus. People had to stay at home for two months. The spring session of parliament was cancelled. The May referendum was postponed. The government ruled alone by emergency decree. Where does that leave direct democracy?

Martina Mousson*, a political scientist from the gfs.bern research institute, is familiar with psychological phenomena in times of crisis. After the Spanish Flu, which claimed millions of lives, the Roaring Twenties broke out, with many people celebrating excessively. The idea that the Covid-19 pandemic could be followed by something similar is therefore quite tempting.

The government’s emergency decrees are supported by the Epidemics Act. This authorised the government to declare the extraordinary situation on March 16 and to govern without parliamentary control.

After the spring session of parliament was interrupted, the two chambers regrouped at the beginning of May – not in the federal parliament building but on the city of Bern’s exhibition grounds, where the necessary distance could be maintained.

However, initiative committees had to remain patient. Collection signatures in the street was only approved at the beginning of June.

In the meantime, the government has also decided that the three issues on which the people should have voted on May 17, together with two other items, will be put to voters on September 27.

*The interview with Martina Mousson took place in early April, shortly after the Swiss government had urged the public to stay at home.

--- is the international branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Its role is to report on Switzerland and to provide a Swiss perspective on international events.

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SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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  2. Marie - wir uns kennenlernen

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