Swiss voters are likely to approve government plans to ease citizenship rules and introduce statutory maternity benefits at the ballot box next month.This content was published on August 20, 2004 - 15:01
An initial poll commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation shows that rightwing opponents are failing to convince the public.
The GfS Bern polling and research institute said a majority of voters appeared to be in favour of making it easier for second and third generation foreigners to acquire Swiss citizenship.
Some 75 per cent of respondents said they would support plans to grant citizenship to children born in Switzerland to foreign parents. Nineteen per cent came out against and six per cent were undecided.
A second proposal to ease naturalisation for young foreigners who went to school in Switzerland came in with a 44 per cent margin – 68 per cent in favour, 24 per cent opposed, and eight per cent undecided.
Parliament has voted in favour of the bills, but the rightwing Swiss People’s Party - the strongest political group in parliament – is opposed to them. The three other main parties support the bills.
Roman Jäggi, spokesman for the People’s Party, expressed doubts about the reliability of the GfS study. “The poll was carried out before the campaign ahead of the vote had fully begun,” he told swissinfo.
“We also wonder whether the people interviewed stated their true voting intentions because the issues at stake are so controversial,” he said.
He added that the party had no plans to change its strategy since indications were that its grassroots were against the proposals.
The government says making citizenship easier could help foreigners integrate into Swiss society. Opponents argue the proposal is simply a ploy to artificially reduce the number of foreigners in Switzerland.
Just over 20 per cent of the population is foreign, although a significant number were born and educated in Switzerland.
A second GfS poll suggests the People’s Party is failing to persuade voters to reject paid maternity leave for working women.
Sixty-nine per cent of voters said they would approve the proposal passed by parliament last year.
Some 18 per cent came out against the plan, which would give women 14 weeks paid maternity leave. A further 13 per cent said they were undecided.
The People’s Party, which forced a nationwide vote on the issue, said it would be too costly. The other three main political parties are in favour of maternity benefits.
Pollsters said voters appeared to be well informed about the issues at stake on September 26. “This is because the Swiss electorate has voted on the same issues before,” the GfS Bern institute said.
In 1994 and 1999 respectively, voters threw out similar proposals in nationwide polls.
The survey is based on interviews with 1,210 people in the German, French and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland, carried out six weeks before the vote.
The poll did not canvass opinions on another vote - to prevent the closure of post offices - also scheduled for September 26.
Another GfS survey is to be published in the first half of next month.
swissinfo, Urs Geiser
Voters look set to back proposals to ease citizenship rules, according to an initial nationwide poll.
They are also likely to vote in favour of introducing statutory maternity benefit.
Parliament has approved both proposals, which come to a vote on September 26, but the rightwing Swiss People’s Party is opposed.
September 26 votes:
Easing citizenship for 2nd and 3rd generation foreigners in Switzerland.
Introducing statutory paid 14-week maternity leave.
Halt to closures of state-owned post offices.
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