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Four Noes and a Yes: voting in a Swiss referendum

September 23, 2020, 1 Comment

I’ve just voted for the first time as a Swiss citizen. Actually it was for the first five times as there were five different things to be decided. Typical, you wait 15 years to vote and then five come along at once. Not that I’m complaining as I vote willingly and never understand people who don’t. It’s just as well I like voting as it happens rather often in Switzerland.

This time it wasn’t an election but five different national referendums (plus four local ones but we won’t get into those). The first was in fact a popular initiative, triggered by collecting 100,000 signatures and so forcing a vote before any legislation has happened. The other four were optional referendums, called to contest laws passed by federal parliament and validated by collecting 50,000 signatures. Looks like I’ll be doing as much signing as voting.

The voting papers arrive by post and most people return them post. That is perfectly normal and functions exceedingly well. No politicians try to undermine the system, no one defrauds the system and everyone trusts the system. We all win, even those who lose the vote.

More importantly, every Swiss citizen is registered to vote automatically and receives their papers in good time. I didn’t have to do anything, even though I’ve only been Swiss for a few months. No obstacles to people voting, no hint of one side trying to manipulate the vote by excluding people. It’s called democracy.

Almost as important is that my voting papers came with an official booklet explaining what was being decided, including texts written by the Yes and No campaigns in each case.

It also showed how parliament had voted on each matter (so you can see how united or divided it was) plus the government’s recommendation on what to vote (in case you need help). And always had the text of the proposal or law that was being decided. Clear, balanced, precise information so every voter can be informed.

The five votes this time were:

  • An initiative from the right-wing SVP to withdraw from the agreement with the EU on free movement of people. My vote: NO – Switzerland shouldn’t become more xenophobic and isolated (look at Britain if you want to see what a mess that is).
  • The hunting reform bill, which allows hunting of wolves but also other species such as lynx, beaver and heron. My vote: NO – reform the law on wolves by all means but why include other animals and let them be hunted?
  • The bill that would give higher federal tax breaks to families no matter how much (or little) they earn. My vote: NO – the wealthy don’t need any more tax breaks so if you want to help families, help the ones in need with more targeted measures.
  • The question of paternity leave, which isn’t obligatory yet in Switzerland but would be two weeks from next year. My vote: YES – time that this country joins the 21st century and realises every child has two parents, not only a stay-at-home mother.
  • The purchase of new fighter jets for the air force at a cost of 6 billion francs (which voters rejected six years ago). My vote: NO – outdated and overpriced thinking for today’s world, especially for such a small country.

My four Noes and one Yes were the opposite of the government’s recommendations, although we agreed on two of the decisions. I posted my envelope in the official ballot box in Bern and will be watching as the results are announced live on Sunday evening.

Now I’m already looking forward to my next vote, which will be in a few months.

One Comment on "Four Noes and a Yes: voting in a Swiss referendum"

  1. James Edwards Monday September 28th, 2020 at 06:27 PM · Reply

    Sorry mate, but you should give that passport back. Your British and Switzerland is not your homeland. Soon there won’t be any Swiss left. Just paper Swiss from other countries who have shoved their way in because they want to pretend to be Swiss. Your obviously mentally ill and want to take on another identity rather than be proud of your own roots. You are a british man in Switzerland who is desperate to enter a club you think is fashionable. It is very sad. You are not Swiss but a globalist ashamed of your own heritage. Your now Swiss? It’t like you have just obtained a pair of Calvin Kline jeans. Be proud of where you come from. That is what true multiculturalism is. It’s not adoopting another identity. There are also Somalians who have Swiss passports but don’t speak the dialect. They relaxed the rules on obtaining a passport so sadly every wannabee is getting one. Buts its all on paper. And Heidi is a great story. My Swiss friends connect with it.only a true Swiss would understand it. My homeland? Ridiculous…

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