In Switzerland, citizens have the last word on money matters

If citizens in the Swiss town of Aarau think that their politicians plan to waste too much money, they can interfere using a special veto power. Although it is rarely used, the measure’s effects manifest themselves in other ways.


 “Participatory budgeting” – where everyone can have a say on how public money is used – has become all the rage recently. Citizens of cities like Madrid and Paris have already had several chances to decide how multimillion-Euro budgets are spent. But Switzerland is the only country where the method is regularly used, according to the Italian research group Politis.

For the Swiss, participatory budgeting has deep roots in the political landscape. Most cantons and communes hold optional or even required referendums on financial matters. 

Control over the town’s finances

In Aarau, a town between Bern and Zurich prized for its picturesque historic centre, it is mandatory for the town’s electorate to have their say on budget items with significant financial implications. Aarau holds obligatory referendums on financial matters if the expenditure amounts to CHF6 million ($6.1 million) or more. 

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