Friday, September 14, 2007

Where's Janez?

Der Spiegel reports on the mysterious absence of Janez Drnovšek, president of Slovenia (not to be confused with that other place), who has not been seen in public since July. Presidential spokesman Ivo Vajgl explained the unexpected cancellation of a meeting between Mr. Drnovšek and Italian prime minister Romano Prodi scheduled for this Monday by saying the president was enjoying his vacation and that "something unexpected" had come up to prevent the meeting. I hope Mr. Drnovšek is well and will be able to resume his duties soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Democracy = racism?

Der Spiegel is covering a report from the Swiss Federal Commission Against Racism that condemns Switzerland's naturalization process as racist, largely because some individual citizenship applications are subject to popular vote in the applicant's municipality. The procedure fails to protect applicants' privacy and can expose them to racial discrimination, according to the report.

Switzerland's much-vaunted practice of direct democracy reveals a dilemma for people committed to both democracy and racial equality. How can both be safeguarded while racism persists in the community? Advocates of initiative and referendum in US states should tread carefully.

The Commission's report is available in PDF format in German, French, and Italian (no English version).