Swiss votes: immigration, fighter jets, families and hunting

© Keystone / Walter Bieri

A proposal to scrap an immigration accord with the European Union is one of five issues on the next nationwide ballot in Switzerland.

This content was published on August 24, 2020 - 10:00

The country’s 5.4 million voters, including registered expatriate Swiss citizens, will also have the final say on a multi-billion financial package to purchase new fighter jets for the Swiss air force, as well as proposals related to family policy and to wildlife and hunting.

Free movement

Immigration has been one of the most recurring and controversial issues in Swiss politics over the past 50 years, notably the free movement of people accord with the EU which came into force in 2002. On September 27, Swiss voters will decide whether that accord should be suspended.

Numerous experts and studies have looked at the benefits – or drawbacks – of the labour accord with Switzerland’s most important trading partner.

Fighter jets

The Swiss armed forces are another source of contention between the political left and the majority centre-right. It’s been barely six years since voters last had their say on the issue; in dealt the political and military establishment a severe blow when they threw out the purchase of new fighter aircraft.

Fighter jet pilot Maurice Mattle doesn’t give an opinion on the issue at stake, but he does give a sense of what it’s like to work with the aircraft each day.

Paternity leave and tax breaks

Besides defence and foreign policy, voters will also weigh in on plans to introduce a two-week paternity leave and to grant tax breaks for families with children - two social issues related to families.

Why is Switzerland lagging behind other countries in Europe when it comes to giving fathers leave when their child is born? Sociologist Isabel Valerino provides some answers.

Tax deductions for families with children are a separate item on the ballot sheet. Will they mainly benefit well-off households, as critics maintain? factcheckers give their verdict:

Last, but certainly not least is an issue close to the hearts of hunters as well as environmentalists: a proposed reform of the country’s hunting law. At the centre of the debate is the growing wolf population in Swiss mountain regions. Some see the legal amendment as a reasonable compromise to secure the long-term coexistence between the predators and human civilisation.

Concerned about Switzerland’s biodiversity, opponents argue the new law encourages the culling of certain wildlife species.

The issue of hunting wolves has been controversial for years; a video from our archives explains the controversy.

Facts and figures

The September 27 ballot is the second set of Swiss votes this year after the coronavirus pandemic forced the polls planned for May to be re-scheduled.

About 5.4 million Swiss citizens are eligible to take part in the votes. 

Besides the five nationwide ballots, there are numerous votes at cantonal and local levels on September 27.

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