Swiss voters reject more direct democracy

ZURICH Sun Jun 17, 2012 3:13pm BST

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ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss voters looked to have rejected on Sunday a bid to force all international treaties to be put to popular referendum, which opponents argued could have hampered foreign policy and caused legal uncertainty.

The vote was called by the Action for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland (AUNS) that is regarded as close to the powerful right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), which is an ardent defender of direct democracy.

AUNS wanted voters to have more say over foreign policy, particularly sensitive issues like asylum, but the government and most political parties campaigned against the proposal, fearing it would mean international treaties could be held up.

Official projections showed the proposal was rejected by 75 percent of voters.

Referendums are central to Switzerland's political system of direct democracy and are held several times a year at national, regional and local level on a wide range of topics ranging from working hours to smoking bans.

Despite the vote, international treaties can still be put to a referendum if a group manages to gather 50,000 signatures, as AUNS is now trying to do to stop tax treaties Switzerland recently signed with Germany, Britain and Austria.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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