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Flight of fancy? Cabinet not giving up on buying fighter jets

Disputed: model of a Gripen fighter jet


Less than two years after Swiss voters grounded government plans to buy some Swedish fighter jets for Switzerland’s air force, the government is trying once again, as the Swiss media report.

The question is whether voters will this time be able to have their say. The defence ministry hasn’t yet decided, noted the newspaper Blick on Thursday.

“According to insiders, the government wants to sail around a treacherous trip to the polls by financing the jet purchase from the normal army budget,” it wrote, noting that that would rule out the possibility of a referendum (which requires 50,000 signatures), although a people’s initiative (requiring 100,000) would still be an option.

In their joint editorial, the Bund and Tages-Anzeiger newspapers called the last Gripen referendum a fiasco. “Full support for army issues at the ballot box is history,” they noted.

“Will the new jets fly past the public?” wondered the Aargauer Zeitung. It said the new defence minister, Guy Parmelin, had learnt the lessons from the 2014 “debacle”.

“He wants to expand the selection process. For this he’s setting up an expert group with representatives from relevant departments of the army, the military centre Armasuisse and the general secretariat,” continued the newspaper, noting that the group would include a member of each political party represented in the cabinet.

As the canton Vaud daily 24 heures pointed out, Parmelin does not want to force the pace. He is advancing cautiously like a Sioux Indian.” The expert support group will help achieve this. “If this duopoly appears a touch smoky, the schedule put in place by contrast is as clear as spring water.”

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