Monday, 9 February 2009

So, a referendum can be a positive thing?

Switzerland - the country that uses referendums most frequently in Europe, held another nationwide vote on Sunday. This time the question concerned the possible admission of Bulgarians and Romanians to country's labor market. The opinion polls predicted a close contest with the right wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) running a strong "No" campaign.

SVP presented Bulgarians and Romanians as crows. Source: AP.

Despite the predictions, Switzerland did not offer unpleasant surprises and almost 60% voted "Yes". That comes to show that the Swiss have understood the positive effects of immigration and maybe even the obvious fact that all Bulgarians and Romanians that wanted to work abroad are ALREADY there - mostly in Spain and Italy. But this is not the argument I wanted to make.

Since the rejection of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe in France and Holland, referendums in Europe have been perceived as challenges and obstacles to European integration. That is why 26 out of 27 countries opted to ratify the Lisbon Treaty without holding a popular vote. Ireland has been pointed as the tricky part in the ratification process and has received quite a lot of attention even before the referendum there was held especially because of that.

However, the three consecutive "No"'s should not let us forget that referendums can also produce positive results like it happened in Switzerland. Most people have also forgotten that Spain and Luxembourg have said "Yes" to the Constitution in referenda. And hey, you could never tell when a negative result is good - just look at Latin America ...

Hugo Chavez's ambitions of lifting the constitutional limit on presidential terms have been denied by a referendum in 2007.

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