Winter Olympics bid seeks voters’ approval

Swiss speed specialist Lara Gut celebrates with the crystal globe last March after winning the overall women's Super-G combination in St Moritz. Will the famous winter resort host the 2026 Winter Olympics? Keystone

Voters in canton Graubünden decide on Sunday on funding a bid to stage the Winter Olympics. It comes after a recent similar proposal failed at the ballot box and alarm over allegedly undemocratic campaign practices.

Urs Geiser and Renat Künzi,

At stake is an initial CHF25 million ($25.2 million) financial contribution for the canton to prepare its plan for the 2026 Winter Games in the eastern Swiss Alps.

Despite a defeat in a previous vote four years ago, local government and the business community backing the proposal say a major event would boost tourism, the local economy and help renew the region’s infrastructure.

However, critics have pointed out a series of democratic shortcomings during the campaign: Public panel discussions held without opponents, the use of taxpayers’ money and an incomplete or opaque information policy.

In a tweet, prominent political opponent Jon Pult mocked a one-sided panel made up of all the five members of the cantonal government, a mayor and two former local sport stars.

A member of the leftwing Social Democratic Party, Pult is not alone in his condemnation.

Andreas Glaser, director of the Centre for Democracy Studies and professor of constitutional and administrative law at the University of Zurich, said cantonal governments have an additional responsibility in local votes.

He told public radio that the authorities must ensure that both supporters and opponents get a fair hearing in a campaign.

Graubünden is one of two possible Swiss bids for the 2026 Winter Games. In the second half of 2018, the canton’s voters will likely be asked to decide on a second credit package, provided the February vote is positive and Graubünden wins over the other Swiss competitor, Sion (the regions of Valais, Vaud, Fribourg and Bern).

Graubünden staged the Winter Olympics in St Moritz in 1928 and 1948, but in 1980 and in 2013 voters rejected proposals for another bid.

Animal rights, school

Numerous other political decisions are also scheduled at cantonal and locals levels on February 12.

Voters in canton Ticino have the final say on a proposal to boost animal rights. The Lega dei Ticinesi movement wants to improve the legal protection of pets in line with national legislation.

Also on the ballot sheet are proposals for public spending cuts, notably on health and family allowances.

A proposal to reverse education reforms goes to a vote in canton Aargau. Supporters want primary schools to limit foreign language classes as part of their proposal.

The decision is the latest in a wider controversy about the teaching of English or French as a first foreign language in the majority German-speaking regions of Switzerland.

In canton Basel City, as well as at a local level in Zurich, voters are deciding on electoral system reforms. Supporters want to abolish a minimum percentage of votes for a party to be represented in parliament. They argue quorums are an unfair hurdle for smaller parties.

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