EXPLAINED: Why certain parts of Switzerland are to vote on coronavirus measures

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EXPLAINED: Why certain parts of Switzerland are to vote on coronavirus measures
There will be several issues to be voted on cantonal level. Photo by AFP

In addition to two national initiatives, voters in three German-speaking cantons will decide on local issues driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.



In Basel-Country, citizens will vote on a proposal to reduce the rents for businesses severely affected by the pandemic by one-third. Parliament approved the law by 53 votes to 34. 

Concretely, the law provides that the canton covers a third of the rent of the businesses if the owners renounce a third of the rental income.

This way, tenants of commercial premises will have only one-third of the rent to pay.

This so-called ‘three-thirds model’ is already applied in Basel-City. The contributions to the payment of rent are valid retroactively for the months of April, May and June of this year. 

The new law sets the maximum contribution per business at 3,000 francs per month. The total cost for the canton is estimated at 10 million francs.

St. Gallen

Voters will cast their ballots on the cantonal loan program to financially support small and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic.

The urgent government decree passed in April was converted into law in May. The law is subject to a compulsory referendum, as the total cost of the program could reach 50 million francs.

The law supplements the financial support from the federal government. The loan appraisal will be carried out by the banks and controls are provided to prevent abuse and limit the risk that the loans cannot be repaid.


Only companies whose turnover does not exceed 10 million francs annually can benefit from this aid.

On the basis of the requests already filed or pending, the canton expects that the total of loans should reach 3 to 3.5 million francs — significantly less than the maximum amount provided for by law. Parliament approved the law by 104 votes to 5.


In Uri, voters will decide on adding an article to the constitution giving the government the right to issue urgent decrees in the event of a crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic showed that there are emergencies in which swift government action is needed.

However, unlike most cantons, Uri currently has no constitutional basis for the government to act urgently without having to go through ordinary legislative procedure. In parliament, the new constitutional article was approved by 54 votes to 3.

Nationwide initiatives

On the same day, the Swiss will vote on two issues: ‘The Responsible Business Initiative’ and initative ‘For a ban on financing war material manufacturers’

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland's November referendums? 

The first one seeks to decide whether Swiss companies are expected to uphold human rights and comply with environmental standards, not just in Switzerland but also when doing business abroad.

The second wants to ban the financing of all arms manufacture in Switzerland, as well as prohibit loans to arms manufacturers, making it illegal to hold shares in such companies or to invest in funds that contain their shares.






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