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Democracy ‘buried’ Thousands of separatists protest Moutier vote court decision

Protesters carry a coffin down a street

The coffin-bearing pro-Jura separatist procession passed without disturbances.

(Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott)

Several thousand protesters held a mock funeral in the Swiss town of Moutier, saying a court decision to overturn a contentious vote on switching cantons had “buried democracy”.

Moutier sits close to the border of cantons Bern and Jura and is administered by Bern. A vote in June 2017 appeared to allow Moutier to switch allegiance to Jura, but last year it was overruled by a court that found evidence of voting irregularities. An appeal against that decision to the Bern Administrative Court was turned down on Thursday.

In response to the latest verdict, hundreds of pro-Jura separatists dressed in black to stage a mock funeral procession from the town’s railway station to the town hall on Friday. The demonstration included people bearing a coffin.

There were no disturbances or arrests according to the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA, which estimates a protest of between 3,000 to 4,000 people.

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. While not on the same scale as separatist movements in other countries, the Jura independence campaign caused waves in the normally staid Swiss political scene.

The Moutier vote two years' ago showed that the decades-old political issue is still alive in towns and villages close to the border.

Democratic summer Why Moutier matters more than Brexit

The democratic potential of public votes depends on the legal design and political context as shown in two examples in Britain and Switzerland.

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