Can a Swiss referendum be invalidated if one side is proved to be telling untruths?
A Swiss environment group thinks so. Greina Stiftung has filed an action against a forthcoming referendum, accusing the committee that launched it of lying, according to broadcaster RTS
The strategy is opposed by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which instigated the forthcoming referendum to give the Swiss public the chance to vote against the strategy.
Under Swiss law, anyone can demand a referendum against a new piece of government legislation if they gather the required number of signatures, which the SVP did.
But Greina Stiftung thinks the SVP-led committee
has lied in its campaign against the strategy in saying that the government’s plans would cost each household 3,200 francs year. The figure quoted by the federal energy office is just 40 francs a year.
As a result, the environment group has called on the Federal Chancellery to invalidate the referendum.
The Chancellery’s role is to ensure the formal process for a referendum is carried out correctly, but it does not get involved in the arguments for or against.
Speaking to RTS, Greina Stiftung director Gallus Cadonau said the Chancellery’s role was “too passive”, and that he was willing to take his case to the Swiss federal court if necessary.
If the organization were to succeed in invalidating the referendum, it would be a first for Switzerland.
No doubt the case would be eagerly observed by Britain, whose Brexit referendum was beset by claims of lying, particularly over the amount of money the country would supposedly save by leaving the European Union.
At the time, prominent ‘leave’ campaigners backed a highly-publicized claim that Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) would be £350million a week better off if Britain left the EU.