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NY Times reports on minor parties in Switzerland

From the New York Times:

But Switzerland, which may be the world’s most direct democracy, takes fringiness to an entirely different level. Here, any citizen over the age of 18 can start a political party. To get on the ballot for Parliament’s lower house, all a party needs are 100 to 400 voter signatures, depending on the size of the canton.

Thanks to this low threshold, and an open, pluralistic political system, Switzerland has a tradition of colorful splinter parties, usually based in the larger, more urban cantons of Zurich and Bern. (A classic is the Auto Party, organized in 1985 to raise speed limits and limit traffic fines.)

While the Auto Party made it to Parliament, most splinter groups have next to no chance of winning. Still, they reflect “the will of people to actively participate in the election process,” wrote Mark Stucki, spokesman for the Swiss parliamentary services, in an e-mail.


  1. Dale Sheldon-Hess Dale Sheldon-Hess September 23, 2011

    Another NYT piece about the success of third-parties in a foreign country, which fails to mention that the country in question uses proportional representation.

    Let me say it again: We have a two party POLITICAL system, because we have a two party VOTING system.

    Futzing about the margins with ballot access laws or anti-gerrymandering proposals or laws on primaries or about runoff elections (incl. instant ones) or even just whining about “Republicrats”, will have zero effect on the political system.

    Change can only come from a significant change to the voting system; either proportional representation, as has been silently pointed out twice by the NYT, or a consensus-seeking election system like approval or score voting.

  2. Richard Winger Richard Winger September 23, 2011

    Canada and Great Britain don’t have proportional representation, but they have strong minor parties. The United States had strong minor parties in the 19th century, and the 1910’s decade of the 20th century, but the U.S. didn’t have proportional representation.

    What Canada and Great Britain do have, and what the United States did have in the past, is fair and easy ballot access. Also Great Britain and Canada have better traditions of debate inclusion, although they aren’t perfect.

  3. Dale Sheldon-Hess Dale Sheldon-Hess September 23, 2011

    Richard (and anyone who cares to see my response), I’ve responded to your comment over on your blog’s reporting of this story.

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