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Referendum: How are the Swiss likely to vote on February 13th?

Swiss voters will weigh in on four issues in the Sunday referendum: animal experiments, advertising of tobacco products, stamp duties, and state aid for news media. These are the most likely results, latest projections show.

vote on Sunday
A placard in French "We vote on Sunday" reminds Swiss citizens to cast their votes. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

This is what’s at stake in the first of four rounds of voting to take place this year, and what the most probable outcome could be, according to the latest poll carried out jointly by several Swiss media outlets.

The headline contains a link to the official government site describing what’s at stake in the vote. 

“Yes to the ban on animal and human experiments” 

This initiative seeks to prohibit animal experiments, as well as the import of products that have been developed using animal testing.

It also demands that research not involving animals should receive the same level of government funding as is currently provided for tests with animals.

If the initiative is accepted, no new medications, vaccines, or treatments for various diseases could be developed in Switzerland using animal experiments.

The action is spearheaded by dozens of animal protection groups, as well as representatives of Social Democratic and Green parties.

Support for this motion has been low from the start of the campaign, further declining over the past weeks; according to the poll, it will be refused by 80 percent of voters.

“Yes to protecting children and young adults from tobacco advertising”

Advertising of tobacco products is permitted in Switzerland, though subject to certain restrictions. Such promotion aimed specifically at minors is, however, banned.

The initiative committee, which consists of cancer and pulmonary leagues, the Swiss Society for Public Health, paediatric associations, and other pro-health groups, seeks to prevent all tobacco advertising from reaching minors. The same rules would apply for electronic cigarettes.

EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s tobacco advertising referendum all about?

The Federal Council and Parliament oppose the initiative, believing it goes too far. They have launched a counter-proposal in the form of the new Tobacco Products Act.

The number of supporters of the initiative “is stagnating, while opponents are gaining ground”, the poll’s analysis indicates.

The projections still show a 61-percent chance of acceptance, with approval rate highest (87 percent) among Green party members. On the other hand, 63 percent of sympathisers of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) are against the initiative.

“Amendment of the Federal Act on Stamp Duties”

When a company in Switzerland raises capital by issuing shares, the federal government levies a new issues tax (‘stamp  duty’), which amounts to 1 percent of the capital raised.

The tax is only levied on amounts exceeding 1 million francs. As a rule, small businesses do not pay this tax; only medium-sized and large companies are subject to it.

The Federal Council and Parliament want to abolish the stamp duty to reduce investment costs, which will have a positive effect on economic growth and jobs.

But opponents like trade unions and Social Democratic party argue that the main beneficiaries of the abolition of the stamp duty will be corporations, banks and insurance companies.

Average citizens, on the other hand, will gain nothing, while risking the loss of state benefits as the government will have less revenue in its coffers.

When it comes to this issue, “the left-right divide is clear”, media analysis of poll results reveals.

Within the Liberal party (which is actually conservative), 60 percent back the initiative. Among the SVP members, 57 percent approve of it, while the centrist and left-of-centre voters “lean towards a slight rejection”,  poll results show.

“Federal Act on a Package of Measures to Benefit the Media”

With less advertising income, Switzerland’s national and regional media are under financial pressure.

Authorities want to offer subsidies to the media for a period of seven years, on condition that these information sources are aimed primarily at a Swiss audience and deal with a range of political, business and social topics “essential for direct democracy”.

Opponents, mainly from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, argue however that this would be a waste of public money and that the independence of the media would be undermined.

Polls predict refusal of this initiative by 55 percent of voters, especially those living in rural areas.

The two main arguments invoked for the rejection are the loss of independence of the media, as well as general concern that large publishers would receive public funds.

More information about the issues voted on February 13th can be found here:

Tobacco, tax and animal testing: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s February referendum?

And here are more articles about Swiss politics:

How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works

A foreigner’s guide to understanding Swiss politics in five minutes

Member comments

  1. Well done Switzerland these measures are very much welcomed and a good example of local democracy bringing in much needed progressive legislation.

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Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

Voters in Switzerland’s most populous canton on Sunday approved a proposal which will make it easier for foreigners to get Swiss citizenship.

Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

The vote passed with 69.1 percent support, making it the most popular of the four initiatives put to the polls. 

Around 350,000 foreigners live in Zurich, which is roughly one quarter of the population – although the percentage is as high as 50 percent in some municipalities. 

The successful proposal called for Zurich’s naturalisation process, including the citizenship exam, to be made uniform across all 162 municipalities. 

The questions in the exam will now be centralised on a cantonal level. 

The test will include 350 questions about Swiss history, tradition, politics and culture, with a focus on Zurich. 

Anyone taking the test will be given 50 questions at random and must answer at least 30 correctly to pass. 

More information about the citizenship process in Zurich can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich wants to make naturalisation easier

What else was decided on Sunday? 

Voters in Zurich also decided to reject a proposal to lower the voting age to 16, with 64.1 percent saying ‘nein’ to the proposal. 

A proposal to provide for more parental leave – and even up gender imbalances between fathers and mothers – was also rejected. 

Finally, voters supported law changes which sought to enshrine Zurich’s climate change goals in the cantonal constitution. 

A detailed breakdown of the vote can be seen here.