Freedom in the World
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Switzerland received a downward trend arrow due to referendum voters’ approval of a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets.
In a highly controversial national referendum in November 2009, Swiss citizens approved a ban on the future construction of minarets on mosques, sparking domestic and international condemnation. Following a series of deals with European countries which allowed for the sharing of bank information, Switzerland was removed from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s “grey list” of tax havens in September.
The SVP continued its efforts to ban the construction of minarets on mosques in 2009 and successfully petitioned for a November referendum on the issue. Despite government opposition, nearly 58 percent of the population and 22 out of 26 cantons voted in favor of the referendum, effectively prohibiting the future construction of minarets at the constitutional level. However, the four mosques with existing minarets would not be affected. The ban was met with considerable domestic and international criticism, and human rights organizations considered it a violation of the European Human Rights Convention.
Switzerland is an electoral democracy. The constitution of 1848, significantly revised in 1874 and 2000, provides for a Federal Assembly with two directly elected chambers: the Council of States (in which each canton has two members and each half-canton has one) and the 200-member National Council. All lawmakers serve four-year terms. The Federal Council (cabinet) is a seven-person executive council, with each member elected by the Federal Assembly. The presidency is largely ceremonial and rotates annually among the Federal Council’s members.