Optional referendum

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A ballot paper of the votation, organised on 8 February 2009, on the extension of the free movement of persons to Bulgaria and Romania.
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The optional referendum (German: fakultatives Referendum; French: référendum facultatif, Italian: referendum facoltativo, Romansh: referendum facultativ) is an instrument of direct democracy in Switzerland. It allows citizens to oppose laws voted by the federal parliament, cantonal and/or municipal decrees by legislative and/or executive bodies.

On a federal level a vote will be organised on every law against which opponent collect 50,000 valid signatures during the period of 100 days after publication by the parliament.

A referendum can also be requested by a minimum of eight cantons, the so-called cantonal referendum (not to be confused with a mandatory or optional referendum on a cantonal level).

It is different from a mandatory referendum in that a collection of signatures is necessary to organise the referendum.


After pressure by a grass-roots movement, the optional referendum was introduced in 1874.[1]

See also[edit]


  • Vincent Golay and Mix et Remix, Swiss political institutions, Éditions loisirs et pédagogie, 2008. ISBN 978-2-606-01295-3.


  1. ^ (in French) Horizons, magazine of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, no. 99, 2013, p. 45.

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