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June 11, 2010 - Phil Hodgen

A Swiss political procedure question put to the internet

Let’s say that the Swiss People’s Party and/or the Social Democrats cave in and vote in favor of ratification of the UBS agreement in the next few days.  That theoretically clears the way for the U.S. government to get the names of 4,450 American customers of UBS.

From my (extremely limited) understanding of the political process in Switzerland, any law passed by Parliament can be put to a national referendum if 50,000 signatures are collected within the first 100 days following passage of the law.

Questions:

  1. Is my understanding of the referendum process correct?
  2. Would the referendum process apply to the UBS agreement ratification vote that will happen any day now?

Here’s why I am wondering.  If the referendum process is applicable to the UBS agreement vote, then it would be reasonable to assume that the U.S. government will not get the 4,450 names until after the 100 day time period expires.  Because if the Parliamentary vote can be overturned by a national referendum, the law is not really final until the opportunity for a referendum has passed.

Can anyone help me on this?

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