Voters in Geneva have narrowly turned down a proposal to give foreigners the right to vote. It's the second time in the past eight years that such a move has been rejected.
The proposal was turned down by a mere 5,000 votes. A total of 66,761 voted against while 61,670 were in favour. Turnout was put at 62 per cent.
The Geneva initiative proposed that any foreigner who had lived in Switzerland for at least eight years should be allowed not only to vote on communal matters, but also to stand for election. The move would have benefited almost 70 per cent of the foreign population in Geneva.
A similar initiative was rejected by 71 per cent of the canton's voters in June 1993, denting Geneva's reputation as the Swiss canton most open to the outside world.
Some 40 per cent of the population of canton Geneva and over 50 per cent of the working population are foreign.
Only one other canton, Jura, allows foreigners to stand for local office, while two others, Neuchatel and Appenzell Ausserrhoden, permit them to vote in local elections.
Virtually all the political parties represented in the Geneva cantonal parliament support greater integration, but opponents of the initiative believed it went too far too quickly.
"It has to be a gradual process. We cannot jump from nothing to a situation where a foreigner is treated like a national citizen," said Michel Halpérin, leader of the Liberal group in the regional parliament.
The Geneva vote will be seen as a barometer by the federal authorities, which recently proposed giving automatic citizenship to third generation foreigners.