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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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UKRAINE

Switzerland preparing to host Zelensky’s first trip since invasion

Swiss officials are preparing to welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s first overseas trip since Russia invaded in late February, when he visits the southern canton of Ticino for a conference on Ukrainian security in July.

Switzerland preparing to host Zelensky’s first trip since invasion

Zelensky has been invited to the event on July 4th and 5th in Lugano alongside several world leaders including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. 

Swiss media reports the Ukrainian leader looks set to attend the conference, which would make it his first trip abroad since Russia invaded in late February. 

Swiss broadsheet Tages Anzeiger reported on Wednesday that Zelensky originally committed to attend the conference before the invasion, but Swiss authorities said in March the Ukrainian President’s attendance was “no longer imaginable”. 

Security services however said on Wednesday they are continuing to operate under the assumption Zelensky will attend the conference, which would be his first overseas visit. 

Zelensky spoke with Swiss President Ignazio Cassis on Saturday and Swiss authorities believe the Ukrainian President is still planning on attending, but has acknowledged he may cancel the visit at short notice depending on the situation in Ukraine. 

Zelensky has previously refused offers to leave Ukraine, saying he would remain in Kyiv as long as the invasion continued. 

What is the conference about?

Initially planned as a conference to discuss reform, organisers say it will now focus on security, fundraising and reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. 

Security Director Norman Gobbi told the Tages Anzeiger “The reform conference has become a donor and reconstruction conference – with completely different dimensions in terms of security policy.”

Gobbi said the conference had grown in importance “especially since in addition to the Ukrainian representatives, heads of state such as Mario Draghi, Emmanuel Macron or Olaf Scholz are considering attending”. 

“For Lugano, for the canton of Tessin and for Switzerland it is an honour – but a considerable challenge – to host such a conference”. 

Switzerland has thrown its support behind Ukraine since the invasion, joining EU sanctions efforts despite domestic criticism that it amounts to an erosion of the country’s commitment to neutrality. 

READ MORE: Sanctions on Russia – is Switzerland still a neutral nation? 

Cassis has dismissed these concerns, saying “doing nothing in the face of an aggressor is not neutral”. 

Zelensky, who previously met Cassis in October 2021 before their April 30th meeting, has previously said he would consider a Swiss-style form of armed neutrality in order to bring the invasion to an end. 

The southern, Italian-speaking canton of Ticino has come under increasing scrutiny since Russia’s invasion, with speculation in Russian and Swiss media that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mistress, Alina Kabaeva, lives in Ticino, with several of Putin’s children. 

At least two of Putin’s children are believed to have been born in Lugano, with US government officials believing they have spent their time alongside their mother in a Lugano villa and in a luxury compound in the western canton of Geneva. 

Swiss officials have said publicly that Kabaeva has not been issued with a Swiss residency permit, giving rise to media speculation that she is living in the country illegally. 

Kabaeva, a former gymnast who won Olympic gold, made her first appearance since the invasion at a gymnastics event in Moscow in April, where she called upon Russia to support the war efforts. 

In her appearance, Kabaeva said “every family has a war story and we mustn’t forget it”, while linking the current invasion to the Soviet victory over the Nazis in World War Two

READ MORE: Pressure building on Switzerland to deport Putin’s mistress

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