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Swiss Abroad Swiss expats clearly reject ‘Swiss law first’ initiative

Jet d'Eau, das Wahrzeichen Genfs

Seventy-nine per cent of Swiss expats registered in Geneva voted against the initiative.

(Keystone)

Swiss citizens living abroad came out even more strongly against a rightwing proposal to put the Swiss constitution above international law than voters at home, who also clearly rejected the initiative. 

In a preliminary breakdown of Sunday’s results, between 66% and 79% of the Swiss Abroad said no to the “Swiss law first” proposal. Overall, 66.2% of Swiss voters turned the initiative down

The conservative right People’s Party said its initiative was aimed at preserving Swiss sovereignty and direct democracy, giving citizens the final say on any international treaty. 

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Stronger rejection of 'Swiss law first' initiative by those living abroad

Under the proposal, the powers of the government, parliament as well as the courts would have been restricted. International accords not in line with the Swiss constitution would have been cancelled or be subject to new negotiations. 

The analysis and survey of how the Swiss abroad voted on the issue found that Swiss voters abroad rely more heavily on information obtained online than do people in Switzerland, who also have access to TV, radio, the printed press and campaign posters. 

Four out of five overseas voters registered in canton Geneva voted no to “Swiss law first”, compared to a rejection by just over two-thirds of those on the voting list in canton St Gallen. This low value for Swiss voters overseas was still higher than the overall outcome.   

The results are in line with voting patterns of the Swiss abroad on initiatives put forward by the People’s Party – expats are usually more sceptical of its anti-European, anti-immigration campaigns. 

Survey

The first-ever analysis and survey of Swiss expats following a vote Sunday was conducted by the gfs.bern research institute, commissioned by swissinfo.ch. Nearly 300 expats took part in the survey. 

The survey author, political scientist Urs Bieri, said 81% of all respondents – whether Swiss abroad or voters at home - stated that it was not difficult to form an opinion on the initiative. 

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Availability of sources for obtaining information on the initiative was what set the two groups of voters apart. "Online content of media such as swissinfo.ch and others are of central importance to Swiss voters abroad," Bieri said. "If you want to address the Swiss abroad, you have to reach them online." 

The decision by the People’s Party to forgo the kind of high-profile and provocative campaign that it’s known for led to a slightly higher percentage of Swiss abroad compared to other voters not being able to attribute the “Swiss law first” initiative to the conservative right party.

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