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Short of signatures

No votes on wiretapping and army reform

The Swiss justice authorities will be able to install computer surveillance programmes to investigate serious crimes following a failed challenge by opponents to force a nationwide vote on the issue.

A committee of representatives from youth chapters of political parties from the left and the right as well as civil society said it had not been able to provide enough validated signatures to the Federal Chancellery by Thursday.

The group had 100 days to collect at least 50,000 signatures following parliament’s approval of the amended law on the surveillance of telecommunication in March.

It allows prosecutors to bug Internet-facilitated telephone communications, including Skype, and will oblige companies such as Facebook and providers of Wi-Fi connections to cooperate with the Swiss justice authorities.

Opponents argue the increased powers are a threat to privacy and data protection.

However, Swiss voters will have the final say in September on a legal amendment aimed at boosting the powers of the intelligence service.

An alliance of leftwing parties and representatives of civil society says the law undermines people’s freedoms and democratic rights.

The government and parliament say the increased powers for the intelligence service - monitoring private communications over the internet and bugging private homes – is needed to combat terrorism.

Army reform

Meanwhile, a group led by conservative pro militia army supporters says it did not succeed in collecting enough signatures to force a nationwide vote on a planned reform of the Swiss armed forces.

The committee on Thursday announced the collection was short of about 10,000 signatures – about 20% of the required 50,000.

It deplored the insufficient support from other army groups and a perceived lack of awareness about military threats to Switzerland among most citizens.

Parliament had approved the reform in March – including a reduction of the number of army members to about 100,000. Opponents however want to maintain the current size with 140,000 soldiers and 80,000-strong reserve troop.

The reform package is aimed at improving training and equipment as well as its acceptance among the population, according the defence ministry.

It has an annual budget of CHF5 billion ($5.1 billion).

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch



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