"Lady luck" helps government win vote

swissinfo.ch

The close decision by Swiss voters in favour of biometric passports was described as lucky for the government by many Swiss newspapers on Monday.

This content was published on May 18, 2009 - 08:59

Many commentators say the margin of only 5,504 votes or 50.1 per cent supporting the introduction of passports with an electronic chip also serves as a warning that people are sceptical about the creation of a central database with fingerprints.

"It is a slap in the face for the political establishment that includes the government and long-established parliamentarians. They have to thank lady luck that they do not belong to the losers," commented the Aargauer Zeitung.

The Neue Luzerner Zeitung also describes Sunday's vote as a "chance result" but says the government can breathe a sigh of relief.

Switzerland can fulfil its obligations under the Schengen Accord with the new passport and the business world is happy that travelling to the United States and other countries will not require a visa.

Suspicious

But, the paper pointed out, the result showed that voters were suspicious of the government.

"The government with the support of the business world and the tourism branch hardly managed to dispel the uncertainties surrounding the central database."

It added the authorities were now obliged to take these concerns seriously.

Le Temps of Geneva said it was legitimate for voters to want to protect their privacy.

"Their first reflex was therefore to have doubts about a technology that collects personal data, without knowing who one day could access it and for what purpose it would be used."

The Bund of Bern like other papers makes the point that it will not be long before there will be calls for such data to be used by the police when, for example, investigating a murder case.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has rejected such a use.

ID with chip?

There have also been fears that a future Swiss identity card will include an electronic chip.

However, the tabloid Blick of Zurich noted that Widmer-Schlumpf on Sunday underlined there would be no biometrical details on the Swiss ID.

The Tages Anzeiger, also of Zurich, said parliament should now clearly introduce legislation offering every Swiss the possibility to acquire an ID without a chip.

It added that 49.9 per cent of voters were sceptical about biometrical passports; the government and parliament should take their views seriously.

But the editorial in the Berner Zeitung argues that the decision was not close as people think.

"The 'yes' to the biometric passport shows that the Swiss place a lot of value on unrestricted travel freedom. A majority of voters were not made insecure by vague scare tactics."

It added that the low voter turnout was a sign that the "yes" vote was more firmly anchored among people than the result suggested.

Robert Brookes, swissinfo.ch

Key facts

Yes: 50.1%

No: 49.9%

Turnout: 38.3%

Voters in three out of the country's 26 cantons could cast their votes online.

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Sunday vote on complementary medicine

Apart from the vote on biometric passports Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to promote alternative medicines: yes: 67%, no: 33%.

The plan foresees that complementary treatments, including homeopathy, herbal and neural therapies as well as traditional Chinese medicine, could be paid by the compulsory health insurance.

However, the government says such treatments must be effective, reasonably priced and appropriate to be included in the list of paid health services.

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