Opponents of Switzerland’s purchase of F-35A fighter jets from the United States say they have enough signatures to force a vote on whether the right type of aircraft is being bought.
Left-wing political groups behind the “Stop F-35” initiative said on Friday that the required level of support to see the referendum being staged had been found within nine months.
The signatures must now be handed in to the federal authorities and checked before a date for the popular vote can be set.
The CHF6 billion ($6.1 billion) F-35A contract was provisionally signed last year, after Swiss voters narrowly approved the credit to buy the jets in a 2020 referendum. But another vote initiative was launched shortly afterwards – this time on the specific choice of the F-35, which they claim is an attack plane unsuited to Switzerland’s modest air defence needs.
“Due to the exploding costs of the F-35 and numerous defects in this stealth bomber, this discussion would be urgently needed,” Green Party parliamentarian Marionna Schlatter is quoted by Swiss public broadcaster, SRFExternal link.
Timing of signing
The government initially planned to wait for the outcome of this initiative before closing the deal. However, with the outbreak of war in Ukraine and moves by other countries to re-arm, it reconsidered and signalled an intention to sign the contractExternal link before it expires in March 2023.
The committee organising the new initiative said it should be possible to stage the vote before March provided parliament and the government do not drag their heels.
The government fears that the same price or delivery deadline might not be guaranteed if the deal has to be renegotiated or pushed back - particularly as other countries, including Finland, Germany and Canada, are also queuing up to buy the jets.
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