The Popular Initiative as an (Extra-)Parliamentary Instrument?

An investigation of the members of parliament in initiative committees and the sponsorship of popular initiatives

Via popular initiative, minority groups can demand a referendum on issues that Parliament would otherwise not deal with. The desire for greater direct involvement of minorities and groups that are poorly represented in parliament is one of the main reasons for the introduction of the popular initiative for a partial revision of the Federal Constitution in 1891. However, a crude comparison between parliament on the one hand and minority groups of the (extra-parliamentary) opposition on the other hand is now inadequate. Neither are popular initiatives as an instrument of direct democracy and parliament as an expression of representative democracy mutually exclusive, nor do they move in two completely separate spheres of politics.

This is particularly evident in the fact that members of the National Council or the Council of States can also be members of one or more initiative committees, and in the fact that initiatives are regularly supported or at least backed by one of the major political parties represented in parliament.

This research project focuses on the interrelationship between direct and representative democracy by analyzing on an individual level the membership of national parliamentarians in committees of federal popular initiatives. On the other hand, it is examined which groups  - independent of the individual composition of the initiative committees  - are behind a popular initiative.

This is an interdisciplinary project that Prof. Dr. Nadja Braun Binder is conducting together with Philippe E. Rochat, Postdoc, and Dr. Thomas Milic, both researchers at the Centre for Democracy Aarau.

The research results are published here.