Swiss Vote Whether to Drastically Cut Immigration
Switzerland is holding a controversial referendum on Sunday to decide whether to cut immigration by about 75%.
According to supporters, the move would help protect the environment by reducing the need for new transport links and new housing.
Opponents, including the government, all political parties, employers and unions, argue the proposed cap on immigration growth at 0.2% of the population, or an addition of around 16,000 people per year, will hurt the Swiss economy by curbing the possibility for Swiss employers to recruit skilled foreign labour force.
Besides, opponents claim, capping immigration would derail Switzerland’s agreements with the EU on free movement of labour.
Swiss statistics put the number of foreign nationals, most of them from EU member states, at about 25% of the country’s population of around eight million.
Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, citizens can force a referendum if they gather enough signatures of support. If an initiative wins approval at a referendum, it must become law within three years.
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The federal popular initiative is an instrument of direct democracy in Switzerland. It allows citizens to propose changes to the Swiss Federal Constitution. A votation will be organised for every modification that collected 100,000 valid signatures in 18 months.
It is different from the mandatory referendum in that the proposition to change the constitution comes from the population and not from the parliament. The authorities, even if they don't like it, can not prevent an initiative which has collected enough signatures from being held, but they can make a counter proposal, known as counter-project.
A double majority of people and cantons (states) is required to change the constitution.
The mandatory referendumis a mechanism that holds mandatory votation of some decisions of the parliament, such as modifications of the Swiss Federal Constitution or adhesion to supranational communities.
So a referendum does not become law within 3 years.