Is today a good day for the real Switzerland?

November 28, 2010, 3 Comments

A year and one day ago the Swiss shocked the world, and themselves, by voting in favour of banning new minarets. Today they could take another step towards showing others how an intolerant, xenophobic nation behaves, simply by voting Yes in the referendum on the automatic expulsion of foreign criminals. After the minaret shock, anything is possible, but will the bigots win today? To do that they need to get a ‘double majority’ – over 50% of the popular vote and more than half the cantons. But with both the main initiative and a parliamentary counter-proposal being voted on (see this previous post for an explanation of them), there are four possible outcomes:

  • A double no (2x Nein in German). Neither the initiative nor the counter-proposal manages to win a double majority. Maybe one or the other wins the popular vote, but that it isn’t enough. Both fail.
  • A yes-no. The main iniative wins the double majority and so is passed, even if the counter-proposal also gets one of the two majorities needed (but not both).
  • A no-yes. The initiative fails but the counter-proposal wins the required double and passes.
  • A double yes. Both get the double majority but only one can actually win. So the third question  on the ballot form comes into play. In that, voters were asked to choose between the two, no matter how they actually voted. The winner is the one with the most votes from that deciding question.

It’s simpler than it sounds. What is harder to work out is how the initiative (known in German as the Ausschaffungsinitiative) will become law if it wins the referendum. Parliament and government will have to try and enact legislation that fits with the text of the proposed constitutional change – no easy task given that many believe it to be unworkable and possibly illegal. But it may never get to that.

That’s because the good news is the opinion polls look encouraging. One in yesterday’s Tages Anzeiger (one of Zurich’s main papers) showed 61.7% against the main iniative and 57.8% against the parliamentary counter-proposal: a double no. The bad news is that the polls were hopelessly wrong on the minaret vote, and most Swiss have already decided as postal voting is the norm. Fingers crossed that the crosses are already stacked up in the no camp.

The SVP, the right-wing party who started this pet-hate campaign, likes to crow about it being the party with the most votes at the last election (29%) but actually it is a very small minority: in  that 2007 election, of the then 7.5 million inhabitants, only 4.9 million were entitled to vote; fewer than half did, and of those, only 29% voted for the SVP, ie roughly 700,000 people. That’s about 9% of the population, as opposed to the 21.7% who are foreigners. Of course, none of those foreigners can vote today, but what a sad day for Swiss democracy it would be if the majority listen to a rabid minority who has more money than sense.  

By this evening the result will be known – there are never any all-night counts in Switzerland. Far too inefficient and uncivilised. It could be close, and could even come down to the votes of one half-canton. Here’s hoping that Switzerland chooses to show itself as the tolerant and open society it truly is, or at least could be.

3 Comments on "Is today a good day for the real Switzerland?"

  1. John Mal Tuesday November 30th, 2010 at 10:56 AM · Reply

    I cannot comment on the newer post but I would like to point out that cosmopolitan Zurich city voted overwhelmingly against the initiative.

    • swisswatching Tuesday November 30th, 2010 at 11:11 AM · Reply

      Yes that is now clear,, but at the time I wrote te post on Sunday (minutes after the overall result was announced), only the cantonal figures were available. And, unfortunately, it’s only the canton as a whole that counts in the end. It was a similar siutation between Stadt Bern and Canton Bern. Country folk are just more conservative, it seems. You can see all the individual results here:

      Sorry about the unintentional Comments block on the other post; now corrected.

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