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Education vote heralds political sea change

The vote gives the federal government final say in education matters swissinfo.ch

Monday's newspapers say voters' decision to harmonise education across the country has upset the balance of power between government and the cantons.

This content was published on May 22, 2006 - 08:36

Editorialists say Sunday's vote puts the onus on the cantons to make harmonisation work, but warn against expecting fast results.

A decisive 86 per cent of the electorate voted on Sunday in favour of constitutional amendments to bring more cohesion to the school system and give the federal authorities a bigger say.

But turnout was low, with fewer than three voters in ten casting ballots. For the Corriere del Ticino this was the "most notable facet" of the vote.

The Tages Anzeiger of Zurich commented that the result was "absolutely clear".

"The Swiss have had enough of the local cantonal way of thinking... The ball is now in the court of the cantons."

Federalism shaken

The newspaper also felt that the yes vote shook the foundations of federalism.

Le Matin of Lausanne commented that the result was a surprise in that it was so clear after debate on the issue had been "almost non-existent".

"The Swiss clearly said they were fed up with a federalism that is narrow, old-fashioned and defended by nationalist circles."

But it argued that the cantons would not lose any of their sovereignty.

"On the contrary. The quality of education and mobility will be strengthened. The Swiss have shown their preference for a more cooperative federalism," it said.

Le Temps also felt that the electorate had shaken the "sacrosanct cantonal sovereignty" on the education issue.

"Families have had enough of an education landscape that's still marked by big differences from one region to another," it said.

The 24 Heures newspaper questioned whether "sacrosanct federalism" was now at an end.

No panic

"No. There is no reason for panic. But there can be no doubt that the Swiss political system is in full evolution. And yesterday's vote on education clearly showed this."

It added that even though the turnout was low, the vote was "revolutionary".

"Meddling with cantonal sovereignty on education had been taboo for a long time."

The Bund newspaper of Bern makes the point that schoolchildren will not necessarily be any better at exams as a result of the vote.

"But the new constitutional articles put more pressure on the cantons to do away with 26 different school systems and check the quality of their education."

Many problems

The newspaper also pointed out that the changes would not bring solutions to many problems that schools are facing, including violence and the integration of children with language problems.

"For that it needs more than a few constitutional articles. Educational policy is a continuing process that is certainly not over with this yes vote."

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung felt the vote was a sign that people had been suffering much pressure from the 26 different cantonal school systems.

"The cantons must now quickly act to make the promised harmonisation reality," it wrote.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

Key facts

86% of voters approved the new constitutional articles on education.
All the cantons were in favour of the changes.
The cantons which supported the changes most were Bern (93%) and Neuchâtel (93%). Those least in favour were Ticino (60%) and Appenzell Inner Rhodes (59%).
Voter turnout was one of the lowest ever registered – 27%.

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