Virus forces delay of vote on EU free movement deal

No need to count ballot sheets next May. The next set of nationwide votes was called off. Keystone/Walter Bieri

The Swiss government has called off a planned nationwide ballot about a proposal to scrap an accord with the European Union on the free movement of people. 

This content was published on March 18, 2020 - 17:39
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The vote was scheduled for May 17 alongside two other issues, including a controversial reform of the hunting law

“The necessary measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 also affect the exercising of political rights, notably the organisation of nationwide votes,” the government announced on Wednesday

“The current situation makes it impossible to hold public meetings,” it wrote. As a result, political parties and other organisations must do without gatherings and rallies to decide their position on the vote. 

All major parties, business groups and trade unions have welcomed the decision to postpone. 

The government said it will decide on a new date by the end of May. As a rule, up to four votes are held each year in Switzerland; a first ballot took place in February, leaving just two other possible dates in September and December. 

The government said it also decided to suspend deadlines for the collection of signatures for people’s initiatives and referendums, as well as for parliamentary decisions on an initiative on the corporate responsibility  of Swiss businesses. 

Postponements of nationwide ballots under the Swiss-style direct democracy system are rare. In 1951, the government called off a vote due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in several regions of the country.

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