A triple 'no' blow.

Author:Anderson, Robert

Swiss voters gave a thumb down to all three proposals presented by the government at the ballot box on May 16.

The Swiss populace has once again shown that it is in a position to twist the arm of politics directed by the country's Federal Council and Parliament.

The Swiss Federal Council and Parliament came up short all across the board at the second round of federal referendums held on May 16. Two thirds of the voters emphatically rejected all three of the proposals put forth by the government. These proposals included:

* change in the federal law governing the country's old-age and survivor's insurance (known as the AHV), or the so-called 11th AHV revision;

* the federal government's resolution of October 3, 2003, calling for an increase in the value-added tax to help finance the AHV/IV; and

* the federal law of June 20, 2003 on revising the tax code in the areas of personal income tax on married couples and families, residential property tax and securities sales tax--the so-called tax package. (The proposal had intended to lower taxes)

The Outcome

Some political pundits regard the outcome of the vote as a dear verdict by the people, signalling to the Swiss government that politics is unlikely to cruise too fast, too furious down the right-wing side of the road.

The citizenry, noticeably slapped down the three proposals served up at the ballot box, leaving the government somewhat awe-struck and forcing the proponents of the financial reforms to go back to the political drawing board.

The threefold defeat of the Federal Council's proposals is unique, at least with respect to the recent history of Swiss politics. For the first time, three directives offered by the government were rejected by all 26 cantons. The last time that the executive branch was dealt such a blow was nearly 20 years ago, coincidentally on March 16, 1986, when the voters and all of the cantons turned down the government's move to join the United Nations Organization, which some say was a missed opportunity for enhancing the country's role on the worldwide political stage. Still, at that time the Federal Council suffered merely one defeat.

Adding insult to injury, it was also the second time this year that the government came away empty handed at the ballot box. Already at the first round of referendums held on February 8, the Swiss people went against the will of the Parliament and Federal Council, on all three proposals that were presented by the government. It seems...

To continue reading