1) A clear vote against the No Billag initiative
Swiss voters on Sunday overwhelming rejected an initiative backed by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which would have seen the scrapping of a compulsory television and radio licence fee in the country.
A total of 71.6 percent of voters rejected the initiative after months of heated debate in which supporters said the move would lead to a more politically independent Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) and opponents voiced fears scrapping the fee – essential to the funding of state radio and television – would seriously threaten national cohesion in Switzerland.
Despite the overwhelming opposition to the initiative in the polls, the SBC appears to have recognized the public mood by saying the vote marked a “turning point” in its operations. It immediately announced it planned to trim its budget to the tune of 80 million francs. The broadcaster, which has come under intense fire in recent months, said job cuts would be involved but refused to say on Sunday just how many heads would roll.
2) Thumbs up for federal tax plans
The second national issue in Sunday’s referendum was also settled with a very clear majority with 84.1 percent of voters rubber stamping the Swiss government’s right to harvest federal taxes, including the all-important sales tax, up to the year 2035.
The result was never in doubt but there was always room for a protest vote. This time around, the number of people protesting was relatively small.
In Switzerland, taxes are collected at the federal, cantonal and local levels. Cantons have fiscal autonomy and the right of federal authorities in Bern to collect tax must be regularly approved by cantons and voters.
3) More political transparency for Schwyz and Fribourg
In what could be a harbinger of things to come at the national level in Swizerland, voters in the cantons of Schwyz and Fribourg came out in favour of initiatives designed to bring about greater transparency when it comes to the funding of political parties.
Voters in both cantons backed the initiatives despite regional authorities having asked people to turn down the proposals.
Talks in Bern on this issue late last year stalled, but after Sunday’s results, there could be a new push towards the forging of national rules.
4) A defeat for the right in Zurich
Municipal elections in Switzerland’s largest city on Sunday saw Corine Mauch of the Socialists returned as mayor. The city now has a clear left-wing majority with the Socialists, the Greens and the Alternative List (AL) all winners on Sunday in a shift to the left that was larger than many expected. It’s a different story for the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) which lost six seats in the 125-seat city council. The conservative Christian Democrats also lost six seats.
5) Bern and Zurich back common school curriculum
Voters in Bern and Zurich on Sunday voted in support of the competencies-based Lehrplan 21 (Teaching Plan 21) strategy which aims to bring in a single harmonized school curriculum for all of German-speaking Switzerland for children from kindergarten to the end of the ninth school year.
They did so by rejecting a move that would have left the final decision on all matters school curriculum-related to voters.
The results in the two cantons means German-speaking Switzerland is now a step closer to have a unified school curriculum as is the case in the French-speaking part of the country.