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Inside politics: self-determination vote 'a Trojan horse attack on democracy'

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Inside politics: self-determination vote 'a Trojan horse attack on democracy'
The poster for the campaign against the SVP-backed 'self-determination' initiative.
12:03 CEST+02:00
Opponents of a key upcoming referendum which calls for more self-determination for Switzerland have rolled out a campaign likening the popular initiative to a veiled assault on human rights.

The Civil Society Alliance launched its campaign in Bern on Monday using a large wooden horse as a prop in its bid to convince voters to reject the so-called ‘self-determination’ initiative which goes to the polls on November 25th.

Supporters of the initiative, which is backed by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, want to ensure the Swiss constitution takes precedence over international law and international treaties in cases where there is a conflict between the two.

Read also: How Switzerland's direct democracy system works

The initiative would require Switzerland to renegotiate international treaties that are contrary to its constitution and, if necessary, renounce them. It would also demand that Switzerland put any future international treaties to a referendum.

The SVP argues this will strengthen Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, ensuring voters have the final say.

The satirical video launched by the Civil Society Alliance shows SVP leaders inside a Trojan horse.

But in the run-up to a vote that pits two different conceptions of Switzerland’s place in the world against each other, the Civil Society Alliance says the initiative is actually an attempt to deceive the Swiss electorate.

The group, which is made up of around 120 NGOs, argues the SVP wants Switzerland to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights so that popular initiatives that discriminate against minorities can be rolled out without legal obstacles.

“Using the false flag of ‘self-determination’, the backers of the initiative want to attack the basis of our democracy,” said Civil Society Alliance leader Andrea Huber in a statement on Monday.

“With a yes to the initiative, a Trojan horse would be released into our constitution, opening gates and doors for arbitrariness and discrimination,” she added.

The alliance also launched a satirical video clip showing gleeful SVP leaders waiting inside their Trojan horse to begin their assault on everything from the Federal Supreme Court to "strange women's groups, pseudo Swiss people and tree-huggers".

Both the Swiss parliament and the Swiss government have come out strongly against the initiative. They argue that Switzerland’s system of international treaties ensures prosperity and stability and that ‘self-determination’ initiative would undermine Switzerland’s credibility internationally.

But according to the SVP, the 'elites' consider international treaties to be more important than Swiss-made legislation while the government has failed to apply the voice of the people.

The party criticised the government for not fully implementing an SVP-led anti-immigration initiative in 2014 because it would contravene its free movement agreement with the European Union.

The SVP has also accused the government of heavily watering down a 2010 popular initiative to deport foreigners guilty of serious criminals by giving judges discretionary powers.

A recent survey by pollsters gfs found 39 percent of Swiss voters were either in favour or strongly in favour of the self-determination initiative while 55 percent were against or strongly against it.

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