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Press welcomes outcome of Sunday’s votes

The Swiss press views the outcome of Sunday's vote as a boost for the government swissinfo.ch

Leading Swiss newspapers say the outcome of Sunday’s nationwide votes shows that the electorate is not afraid to take difficult decisions.

This content was published on November 29, 2004 - 07:48

However, some dailies have highlighted the fact that turnout was low because of the complex issues at stake.

Voters on Sunday approved new legislation allowing stem-cell research on surplus human embryos.

They also backed two other government proposals: reform of the federal system, and a renewal of the federal authorities’ mandate to levy taxes.

The “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” said Sunday’s votes showed that the desire for political reform was alive in all parts of the country.

“It was a day for federalism, finances and research in Switzerland,” said the NZZ.

“Reforms are only possible if the centre-right parties reach a common position after long discussions in parliament.”

The Zurich-based “Tages-Anzeiger” in its front-page editorial attributed the success of the authorities to cleverly drafted proposals.

“The recipe for success is moderation,” it said. “The people don’t want extreme proposals, even if they lean towards greater polarisation in elections.”

Tellingly, the leading German-speaking daily, “Blick”, did not carry a story on Sunday’s vote on its front page.

Readers had to delve deep into the paper to find out that the poll was hardly a vote of confidence for the government.

“The litmus test will be next year, when the Swiss are due to vote on highly controversial issues of foreign policy,” the tabloid said in reference to a likely referendum on a series of bilateral treaties with the European Union.

The “Basler Zeitung”, published in the home city of Switzerland’s pharmaceutical industry, warned that it would be mistake to see the vote on stem-cell research as the green light for a scientific free-for-all unbound by ethical considerations.

“Did not understand”

The French-language press also commented extensively on the votes.

A cartoon in the Geneva-based “Le Temps” showed a voter at the breakfast table telling his wife and baby: “I’m relieved that I voted for the right things because I did not understand them.”

The paper added that Sunday showed the limits of what the Swiss electorate could cope with.

The “Tribune de Genève” concluded that low turnout – at 36 per cent – was proof that neither stem-cell research nor the federal reforms really attracted much interest for citizens.

For its part, Lausanne’s “24 Heures” warned the scientific community to show it had understood the message.

“It does not take much for people to change their minds on such controversial issues as stem-cell research,” it said.

The leading daily in the Italian-speaking part of the country, "Corriere del Ticino", pointed out that Swiss voters had placed their trust in the government and scientific research.

The stem-cell vote also featured prominently in international newspapers. The “Financial Times” and the “International Herald Tribune” carried articles about the result.

The FT suggested that the result “could pave the way for Switzerland to foster a stem-cell research industry that could eventually rival those of the UK, the US and some Asian countries”.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser

Key facts

Voters decided on whether to allow research on embryonic stem cells, reform of the federal system and the renewal of the mandate for federal taxes.
Stem-cell research was passed by 66.4% of the electorate; federal reform by 64.4%, and the tax mandate by 73.8%.
Voter turnout was around 36%.

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