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Reitschule centre Voters denied a say on hardline local initiative

Campaign poster calling to cut taxpayers money for the Reitschule culture centre

The initiative was handed in more than two years ago calling for cuts in subsidies for the city of Bern from public coffers ("No taxpayer's money for Bern's Reitschule centre!")  

(Keystone)

The Supreme Court has endorsed a decision to declare invalid a people’s initiative aimed at closing a popular but controversial culture centre in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Rejecting an appeal by the promoters of the initiative, the court announced on Wednesday that the plan by the youth wing of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party ignored legal principles, including the autonomy of local authorities, and “exceeded any reasonable measure”.

The initiative, which collected the necessary number of signatures two years ago, called for a CHF54.1 million ($56.2 million) cut in annual subsidies for the city of Bern from public coffers in effort to shut the Reitschuleexternal link centre.

The promoters accused the five-member court as politically biased, according to Swiss public radio, SRF.

Rightwing political groups argue voters should have the final say on the centre, which they often see as hotbed of leftwing militants and drug dealers.

Bern cantonal parliament decided in 2017 to declare the initiative invalid.

Self-governed centre

At least five local votes have thrown out proposals for the closure of the self-governed centre since the 1990s.

The Reitschule is a popular late-night and weekend venue but it has regularly been the scene of skirmishes with police. It has also been a major point of contention between political groups in Bern since the 19th-century building was occupied by squatters in the 1980s.

Regardless of the latest court verdict, voters in the city of Bern will have the final say in June on another credit package for the centre.

swissinfo.ch with SDA-ATS; urs

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