Valais, a mountainous region with 336,000 residents in southwestern Switzerland, is one the last cantons to review its constitution, which dates back more than a century.
Under Switzerland’s federalist structure, the country is divided into 26 cantons. These enjoy a high degree of autonomy with governments, parliaments, courts and constitutions of their own.
Most of these “states” have overhauled their charters in the past 50 years, having joined modern Switzerland in 1848.
The promoters of the reform in Valais argue it is time for a complete overhaul of the cantonal charter to bring it up to date with reality, mentioning women and children, gender parity, data protection, integration of foreigners for the first time.
However, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party has come out against a general reform, saying partial reforms through people’s initiatives will do.
Most of all, opponents suspect that the reform wants to drop any reference to God in the preamble of the new constitution and introduce through the backdoor voting rights for foreigners.
Opposition and animosities
Behind the campaign to set up a constitutional assembly is the story of political opposition mixed with personal animosities. Read the original story in French.
Last July, nearly 7,900 signatures were handed in – 1,900 signatures more than required – to force a public vote across the canton.
Now it is up to the cantonal parliament in Sion to discuss the initiative. Voters will then be asked to say whether they want a new constitution or not, and whether a special constitutional assembly or parliament should draw up such a charter.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch