Many Swiss voters are still weighing up the arguments in the gold initiative, which aims to impose a minimum gold reserve on Switzerland’s central bank, but opinion is moving in the ‘no’ direction, according to the latest national poll.
The poll, carried out by the GfS Bern research and polling institute in the first half of November, puts the ‘yes’ vote at 38%, a fall of six percentage points since the institute’s previous poll, four weeks earlier.
Meanwhile opposition to the initiative has risen to 47% of respondents, up from 39%, indicating some late momentum in the ‘no’ camp.
Claude Longchamp of the leading GfS Bern said potential supporters of the initiative, spearheaded by prominent members of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, tend to be citizens who prefer a policy of isolationalism. He predicted that the initiative was “likely to fail”.
The ‘Save our Swiss Gold’ initiative aims to set strict rules for Switzerland’s central bank, forcing it to increase its reserves of gold to 20% of all assets within a five-year timeframe. The share is currently 6-7%. The SNB dramatically reduced its holdings of gold in the 2000s.
The proposal also bars the Swiss National Bank (SNB) from selling any more of its gold reserves and stipulates that this gold would have to be kept entirely in Switzerland, which would require the repatriation of Swiss gold reserves stored in the Bank of England and Canada.
In recent years, several People’s Party representatives have criticised the monetary policy of the SNB, in particular the massive purchases of euros made to prop up the value of the European currency and keep the exchange rate floor at CHF1.20 ($1.26). In 2012 these interventions resulted in losses in the billions from the balance sheet of the central bank.
Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has argued that the SNB has more than sufficient reserves with 1,040 tonnes of gold. She claims that the initiative’s backers overestimate the importance of gold, describing it as a volatile and risky metal, which has lost about 30% of its value in 2013.
In the government’s view, the initiative would limit the independence and operating capacity of the SNB.
The initiative was rejected by a large majority in parliament and by the cabinet. The gold vote takes place on November 30.
The pollsters interviewed 1,412 Swiss citizens from across the country for the second of two nationwide surveys ahead of the November 30 vote. Swiss expatriates are not included in the poll.
The telephone interviews took place between November 7-15. The margin of error is 2.7%.
The survey was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo’s parent company, and carried out by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute.
Issues at stake
The vote on population control, combined with family planning and immigration curbs in one of three issues to come to vote on November 30.
An separate initiative by a leftwing grouping aims to abolish a preferential fiscal treatment of wealthy foreigners in Switzerland.
A rightwing committee for its part seeks to ban the sale of gold by the National Bank, set a 20% minimum amount of gold reserves and ensure it is stored in Switzerland only.