It all started with a tweet from a senator's political advisor, who wrote after nationwide votes on February 12 that "Swiss living abroad shouldn't have the right to vote". We wondered what our readers thought.
The tweet from Claudio Kuster, advisor to Senator Thomas Minder, read "Swiss abroad should not have the right to vote, at the very least because they can't easily be reached with information or ad campaigns".
Kuster likely based his statement on the fact that the Swiss abroad voted differently than their Switzerland-based counterparts on the February 12 ballot, especially on the corporate tax issue.
The issue of the Swiss Abroad voting differently and even deciding close votes has come up before, last time during a June 2015 vote on revising the radio and TV law. Florian Schwab, a journalist for the Weltwoche magazine, tweeted at the time that “we can’t accept the fact that Swiss living abroad force a new tax on those living here. We clearly need reform!”
So we put the question to our readers, many of whom are Swiss living abroad, via Instagram. Here are some of the responses we got – weigh in with your own in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Reader Rafiq Tschannen was surprised by the question, saying voting rights for Swiss abroad should be a given.
“True, we do not fully understand everything, especially when it comes to personalities. In that case I admit I just leave the paper blank. But in the general referendums of course we can follow and inform ourselves. And, yes, I usually vote (if the papers reach me in time). Electronic voting would ensure I would always be on time.”
However, others thought that there are situations under which Swiss living abroad should lose their voting rights. About 150,000 of the roughly 720,000 Swiss living abroad are currently registered to vote.
“Holding a Swiss citizenship should not automatically guarantee a voting right especially when the person is residing somewhere else. The vote that he/she cast will not impact him/her.” – Reader "HAT"
"One should distinguish between voting rights and exercising the voting rights. As a Swiss citizen, one should have the voting rights, even if he or she is living abroad. As to whether or not he or she actually casts vote on each case, it is up to him or her to decide, depending on how closely he or she follows the development of situation at home." – Reader "Riehen05"
“Who is to say that all Swiss living in Switzerland always have an in-depth understanding of every issue that they are called to vote on? It's no different with the Swiss Abroad.” – Reader "Aussie"
And several readers agreed that although the Swiss living abroad may be too far away to weigh in on local decisions, they should have a voice in nationwide issues.
“British citizens who live outside the UK for more than 15 years lose their right to vote. I think this is correct. If you don't live in a country, you lose your voting rights. You should vote where you pay your taxes. Those that don't pay, or pay the right amount, should also lose their voting rights. However, for important issues affecting the whole country, such as staying in the EU or leaving it, all citizens should vote, not matter where they live. Millions of British citizens living outside the country were not allowed to vote on Brexit. Result, bye bye EU.“ – Reader "Lynx"
Finally, one comment took up the issue of a Swiss parliamentarian who lives abroad: Tim Guldimann of the left-wing Social Democrats.
"Since Swiss citizens have the statutory right to return to Switzerland any time they wish, they should also have a voting right on fundamental decisions, like changes to our constitution or joining the EU. However, anyone who wants to become an elected parliamentarian ought definitely to reside in Switzerland. Even some of those who do live here seem to have lost touch with reality. The representative who resides in Berlin is benefiting from a loophole in our laws and his efficiency remains to be seen. An expensive experiment. – Reader "Max"
What do you think ? Should there be limits on voting rights for the Swiss Abroad? How would you be affected?