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POLITICS

What’s at stake in Switzerland’s Covid referendum on November 28th?

For the second time in four months, Swiss voters will weigh in on a highly contentious Covid-19 Act. What does the referendum involve this time?

Swiss are set to cast their votes in a Covid-19 referendum.
Switzerland’s Covid-19 law will come under scrutiny — again — on November 28th. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Just like the pandemic itself, the controversy surrounding the Covid-19 legislation has been lingering in Switzerland, leading to a second referendum on this issue in the span of four months.

At the time, a group called “Friends of the Constitution” filed a referendum against the Covid-19 Act, saying the legislation gives the authorities too much political power, “deprives people of their rights”, and is “useless and dangerous”.

However, on June 13th, 60.2 percent of voters endorsed the law, which granted the federal government broad powers to manage the pandemic — including the ability to curtail public life by imposing various bans and restrictions — as well as the ensuing economic crisis, especially in regards to various forms of financial aid for businesses and individuals.

Why will Switzerland vote on this issue again and what’s at stake this time around?

Opponents of the law  — basically the same Friends of the Constitution group, along with the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) — are challenging the legislation again, but this time they target the version revised by parliament on March 19th.

Specifically, this revision relates to the Covid certificate, which Switzerland started to issue on June 7th to people who have been fully vaccinated,  recovered from coronavirus, or tested negative for the disease.

Opponents claim the certificate requirement that is currently in place until at least January 24th, 2022, creates discrimination and division within society, implicitly forcing vaccination and  “state access to our body”.

Supporters of the law, on the other hand, including most political parties as well as the Federal Council, say the certificate requirement makes it possible to avoid closures and bans in the event of a new outbreak of the pandemic,  and lessens the pressure on the health care system. In addition, the certificate is essential for travel abroad.

Most countries will not allow a tourist without proof of vaccination, recovery, or negative test — which the Covid certificate proves — to enter.

READ MORE: Switzerland approves antibody testing for Covid certificate

What would happen if opponents of the Covid Act prevail on November 28th?

In theory, all the requirements relating to and involving the Covid certificate — including access to international travel —would be nullified.

This would also impact other provisions included in the March amendment of the law, such as financial guarantees for the organisers of major events, and increases in of daily allowances allocated to the unemployed.

Practically speaking, however, the impact may not be significant. and certainly not immediate.

Even if the Federal Council doesn’t scrap the certificate requirement on January 24th due to bad epidemiological situation, the amendment of March 19th, 2021 would fall as of March 19, 2022 anyway.

That’s because Switzerland’s constitution requires that emergency legislation ceases to have effect one year after its adoption.

Is this referendum likely to pass?

Despite numerous protests and demonstrations that have taken place in Switzerland in recent months against Covid measures, recent polls show the majority of voters support the current legislation.

For instance, a poll released by Tamedia media group on November 3rd shows that 69 percent of respondents will vote in favour of the law.

This is in line with other recent polls demonstrating solid support for the Covid legislation.

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works

Member comments

  1. This is not an unbiased article, because it does not elaborate on other things or ‘benefits’ that will happen if opponents of the Covid Act prevail on November 28th. With such manipulative articles and approaches people will never understand each other and hence will stay in crisis longer than they should.

    1. Folk like you only see “unbiased” when it’s agrees or parrots the drivel put out by such as yourself. Selfishness to the maximum, conspiracy theories and a bunch of right wingers fuelling this mindset ably assisted by Social Media with strong links to Russia and very wealthy criminals who see benefit in chaos, dysfunctionalism and institutional intimidation in democratic states.

  2. You should consider that the article agrees with the editorial line of thelocal.() , which I think agrees with the thinking of the majority of the readers. I think having an editorial line is fine (and common), and one should not feel frustrated even in the (rare) case when the information trend to a case of confirmation bias.

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POLITICS

Swiss president under fire for handshake photo with Russia’s Lavrov

While attending the opening week of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York this week, Switzerland’s president Ignazio Cassis was photographed shaking hands with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Swiss president under fire for handshake photo with Russia's Lavrov

Though Cassis announced beforehand that he would address “President Putin’s recent provocations” and that he would “condemn the nuclear threat”, Russia used the photo for its own propaganda purposes, with Lavrov publishing the picture of the two smiling diplomats in his tweet.

Cassis quickly reacted with his own post, explaining that his meeting with Lavrov was for a good cause.

“I called on Russia to refrain from organizing so-called referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Switzerland is also very concerned about the threat of the use of nuclear weapons. Neutrality and good offices remain our instruments of dialogue”.

However, some in Switzerland and elsewhere have not accepted this response.

While the Foreign Ministry said “it sees no problem” with this photo, Swiss media Blick noted that “no head of state or minister of a Western democracy has allowed himself to be represented with Sergei Lavrov in such a posture”.

“This image would reflect an apparent normality in relations between the two countries, while Switzerland is still one of the countries hostile to Russia”.

It added, however, that Cassis might have had a noble motive in shaking Lavrov’s hand.

“In the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s announcement to mobilise the reserve troops of the Russian army against Ukraine, this somewhat tense grip is more due to the contingencies of diplomacy than to a reconciliation”.

Others were less understanding of Cassis’ action.

“Our President is shaking hands with a war criminal… I can’t believe it”, said Bernhard Guhl, former national adviser to the Center party.

For Thierry Burkart, president of the Liberal party, “it’s unfortunate that this photo exists. But sometimes you just can’t avoid it…”

As for other social media users, one commented that Cassis “looks proud standing next to a genocide instigator… ashamed of my government”.
 

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