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Direct Democracy and Minority Rights: Direct and Indirect Effects on Religious Minorities in Switzerland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2012

Anna Christmann*
University of Zurich
Deniz Danaci*
University of Zurich
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Anna Christmann, Centre for Democracy Studies, University of Zurich. E-mail:; or Deniz Danaci, Institute of Political Science, University of Zurich. E-mail:
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Anna Christmann, Centre for Democracy Studies, University of Zurich. E-mail:; or Deniz Danaci, Institute of Political Science, University of Zurich. E-mail:


Most of the research on the effects of direct democracy on minority rights is empirically limited to the direct effects of direct democracy. This article takes the issue a step further and examines both direct and indirect effects by investigating the rights of religious minorities in Switzerland. The analysis provides two main insights: all direct effects are negative and can be observed when the rights of out-groups like Islamic minorities are at stake. Second, indirect effects on the parliamentary process can be observed, too: parliaments make laws more restrictive toward Islamic minorities if they fear a popular vote. However, they develop strategies to enforce their liberal interests, as shown by the fact that extensions of the rights of religious minorities are passed in total revisions.

Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2012

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