Swiss town Moutier to re-vote in March on cantonal allegiance

The masked mayor of Moutier at a local fair last month Keystone

In the latest chapter of one of the most divisive issues in recent Swiss politics, on March 28 the town of Moutier will decide for the second time whether to leave German-speaking canton Bern to join French-speaking Jura.

This content was published on October 8, 2020 - 11:30
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In June 2017, voters in the working-class municipality of 7,700 backed joining Jura by just 137 votes. Moutier was part of one of three districts that had previously opted to remain part of German-speaking Bern even though they are French-speaking.

However, the vote aroused suspicions that some “electoral tourists” had registered themselves as eligible voters in Moutier without actually living there, and in November 2018 a top district official ruled the result void. Besides irregularities, the court pointed out “inadmissible” propaganda by officials such as the mayor, who should have been neutral on the issue.

In August 2019, the Bern administrative court dismissed appeals and backed the decision to nullify the result.

Compromise

On Thursday, Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter chaired a tripartite conference attended by delegations from the government, cantons Bern and Jura, and the municipality of Moutier.

The parties eventually compromised on March 28 for the re-vote. Canton Bern had wanted the vote to be held as early as possible, suggesting February 7; separatists in Moutier had proposed May 9.

French-speaking Jura became the 26th Swiss canton in 1979 when a separatist movement won a vote to secede from the mainly German-speaking canton Bern. Since then the question has been raised in some towns and villages along the border about which canton they would like to belong to.

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