The vote is set to take place on March 28th, 2021.
If successful, the region will switch from the German-speaking canton of Bern to the French-speaking canton of Jura.
The French-speaking Moutier has long been frustrated with its presence in the German-speaking canton of Bern.
Described on social media as Mouxit or Mouti-exit – referencing Britain’s Brexit decision to leave the European Union – tensions have been simmering ever since the Administrative Court in Bern declared a successful 2017 separatist vote invalid.
The 2017 vote
Voters celebrated in 2017 after they decided by a narrow margin of 137 votes to leave Bern and join Jura. A total of approximately 4,000 citizens took part in the ballot.
As reported by The Local in August 2019, the court invalidated the vote due to a number of concerns with its legitimacy. The court found evidence of ‘electoral tourism’ – i.e. that non-residents had voted in the election – as well as vote rigging.
Another major reason for the declaration was the intimate involvement of Moutier’s mayor Marcel Winistoerfer in the campaign. Mayors and other public officials are required by law to remain neutral on such issues.
No appeal to the court’s decision
Winistoerfer told Swiss newspaper Le Temps that there will be no appeal launched against the findings of the court.
The “individual appellants to the Administrative Court have announced that we will refrain from bringing an action before the Federal Court”, Winistoerfer said.
Winistoerfer and other Moutier separatists pointed out the delays associated with a court appeal – the last avenue of appeal is the federal court – were likely to be too long.
Instead, a new vote will be held in March 2021 – this time without the irregularities that hampered the 2017 version.
Separatist movements have also been seen in other parts of Bern, including Sorvillier and Belprahon, although residents in these two villages voted to stay.