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Ballots are counted in nationwide votes

Voters said no to a flat-rate tax for the wealthy

(Keystone)

Ballots are being counted after the Swiss voted on Sunday on introducing stricter regulations for the deportation of criminal foreigners.

In a separate vote, the electorate rejected a proposal by the centre-left and trade unions to set a minimum tax rate for wealthy citizens across the country.

Projections issued by the gfs.bern polling institute showed 58 per cent voting against the initiative. To be carried it needed to win a majority of voters and cantons.

Under the proposal, the minimum rate for annual income exceeding SFr250,000 ($249,402) would have been set at 22 per cent and 0.5 per cent for wealth of at least SFr2 million.

About 32,000 people - one per cent of all taxpayers - would have been directly concerned, according to the federal tax administration.

The initiative was aimed at putting an end to what the left said were abuses of the tax autonomy the 26 cantons enjoy under the Swiss federalist system.

Opposition came from an alliance of political parties on the right and the centre as well as the government, most cantons and particularly the business community.

They argued limiting tax competition was an attack on a tenet of the Swiss political system and rich taxpayers would leave the country if the initiative were approved.

A poll six weeks ahead of the ballot showed the centre-left well on course to create an electoral upset. But a counter-attack by the business community - which is believed to have invested more than SFr10 million in its campaign - appears to have made citizens change their minds.

Deportation

The result of the vote on the deportation of criminal foreigners is not yet clear. Voters were faced with a choice between a hardline option and a compromise version; or approving or rejecting both proposals.

A rightwing initiative called for the automatic expulsion of convicted non-Swiss offenders whereas an alternative option by parliament opted for a case-by-case examination and additional integration measures.

The initiative by the Swiss People’s Party called for the automatic deportation of foreign criminals whose crimes fall within a list of around ten offences, including cheating social security benefits. The catalogue of offences is to be completed by parliament. But the proposal denies judges any judicial discretion over deportation.

Controversial black sheep posters proved to be a very successful campaign instrument three years ago when the rightwing party collected more 210,000 signatures for the vote and paved the way for its best result in parliamentary elections.

Counter-proposal

The counter-proposal, promoted by centre-right parties and the government, sought to introduce automatic deportation of foreign criminals serving at least two years in prison.

The authorities want to retain a case-by-case examination to ensure that Swiss legislation is in line with constitutional rights and international treaties. They also propose measures to boost the integration of foreigners.

Experts say the counter-proposal respects traditional legal principles of punishment and takes into account the personal situation of the delinquent, for instance members of second and third generation immigrants without Swiss nationality.

Under current law about 750 foreigners are expelled from Switzerland every year. However, there are regional differences and courts are free to order deportation as an additional punishment.

People's initiative

The people's initiative allows every citizen to propose a modification of the constitution. To be valid it must be signed by at least 100,000 ...

2009 Prison sentence statistics (Federal Statistics Office)

Detainees: 6,084
Proportion of foreigners: 70.2%
Criminal foreigners awaiting deportation (2009): 411

end of infobox

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