Largest voter turnout since 1992
Fiscal treatment for married couples: defeated, but close call
BERN, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss have very comfortably (59%) rejected a right-wing ballot item that would change the law on deporting foreign criminals, polls showed by mid-afternoon Sunday. A bid to add a second tube to the Gotthard tunnel passed easily, with all cantons voting for it and nearly 59% of the voting population in favour, before results were in.
A voter turnout of more than 60%, based on estimates, appears to be the largest since the Swiss voted on the European Union in 1992, reports RTS public broadcasting.
Final official results on the four federal ballot items will be announced by Bern during the evening. In addition to the Gotthard and foreign criminals ballot items voters were asked to decide on banning financial speculation on basic foods, and to vote on a measure calling for equal tax treatment for married couples.
The last one was the cliff-hanger Sunday, a very close call, with opponents saying the definition of marriage was too narrow and that in any event couples living together outside marriage and married couples are roughly equal in terms of financial treatment if the broader situation is considered. Those in favour have been swayed in part by retirement considerations, with a 150% cap on social security payment for a married couple, while those who are not married collect 100% each at the end of their careers.
Canton Bern shifted the balance, voting firmly against the initiative, with results coming in during the early evening.
The Gotthard initiative received strong backing from throughout the country, despite some opposition because the CHF2.3 billion investment needed to build a second tube will not increase the north-south link’s capacity. The government has argued that the tunnel will need to be closed for several years to repair it, due to its age and heavy use. A second tube is its preferred option, but even once the original tunnel re-opens, the second tube will be used only for emergencies when the main tunnel is not available. There is strong support in Switzerland for maintaining limit traffic through the Alps, to avoid increasing the environmental impact on the mountains.
Parliament and courts retain right to decide on foreign criminals
One result of Sunday’s vote on foreign criminals was a rush of happy sheep on Twitter, with the hash tag
The foreign criminals vote was perceived from abroad as part of Swiss measures against foreigners, but in Switzerland it was viewed by opponents as an effort to short-circuit the legal system and undermine respect for a fair legal hearing. It was also to some extent seen as duplicating a 2010 vote to expel foreigners who committed certain serious crimes.
It may well have been defeated because voters paid heed to the government’s rationale in recommending a no vote: the UDC People’s Party created the popular initiative in 2012, giving it two years of publicity before a vote, but crucially writing it before parliament had completed the laws that resulted from the 2010 vote. The new popular initiative would hardened the law in three ways: all criminals and not just a certain category would be affected; by writing it into the constitution, parliament’s role as the body that makes Swiss laws would have been curtailed; courts would have lost the right to decide if attenuating circumstances might have an impact on a criminal’s appeal before the law was applied.
Regions: Geneva art, Neuchatel mobility, Ticino shops
In addition to the four federal items, voters in several regions had local business to vote on, including:
- Geneva rejected funding the restoration of the Art & History Museum
- Neuchatel voted strongly in favour of a new RER (regional train) between Neuchatel and La Chaux-de-Fonds
- Ticino voters said yes to longer shopping hours
- Lausanne made a shift to the left, with six new city councillors from the left-wing coalition grabbing seats.