The Bern administrative court has backed a decision to cancel the results of a separatist vote by the Swiss town of Moutier.
It dismissed the appeals challenging the invalidation of the vote of June 18, 2017, by the prefect of the Bernese Jura over suspected irregularities.
A mere 137 votes decided the outcome of a divisive and hotly contested vote where Moutier residents had to decide if they wanted to switch alliance to canton Jura instead of canton Bern. But the vote aroused suspicions that some people had registered themselves as eligible voters in Moutier without actually residing there.
Besides irregularities, the court pointed out “inadmissible” propaganda by officials such as the mayor who were supposed to remain neutral on the issue.
Even before the court’s decision, both autonomists and anti-separatists had suggested that they would go all the way to Switzerland’s highest court to win their case. It will probably take many months before the validity of the vote result is confirmed or invalidated.
The Bernese and Jura governments have also planned to respond to the court judgement later on Thursday. The separatists have already announced a major demonstration on Friday evening in Moutier to celebrate or revolt, according to social networks.
The controversy is the latest twist in a long-running territorial dispute in Switzerland. French-speaking Jura became the 26th Swiss canton in 1979 when a separatist movement won a vote to secede from the mainly German-speaking canton Bern. Since then, the question has been raised in some towns and villages along the border about which canton they would like to be part of.