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Swiss abroad take different approach to votes

Nearly 100,000 Swiss abroad are registered to vote back home

(Keystone)

Swiss living abroad have followed their compatriots back home in accepting a moratorium on genetically modified organisms - but by a more slender majority.

Partial results reveal that the nearly 100,000 registered voters abroad were also much more liberal when it came to the vote on lifting restrictions on Sunday shopping.

The proposal for the GMO moratorium was accepted by 55.7 per cent of voters nationwide, while a narrow majority – 50.6 per cent – approved easing restrictions on Sunday shopping at major railway stations and airports.

However, the Organisation for the Swiss Abroad (OSA) said the voters it represents bucked the trend.

"We can see in the four cantons where we have results for the Swiss abroad – Lucerne, Geneva, Vaud and Basel City – that they didn't necessarily vote the same way as locals," said OSA director Rudolf Wyder.

A majority of voters in all of Switzerland's 26 cantons voted in favour of the GMO moratorium, but Swiss expatriates registered in the cantons of Basel City, Lucerne and Vaud came out against the ban.

And even though the margin of victory was wafer thin for the vote on liberalising the country's labour laws, a large majority of Swiss abroad came out in favour in the four cantons where their votes were counted.

Sunday shopping

"The Swiss abroad live mostly in countries where Sunday trading is already the norm, and they probably don't see why this shouldn't be the case in Switzerland," said Wyder.

"The opposition by the trade unions didn't seem to have had any influence on them. You could say the Swiss abroad voted as consumers.

"They live in a different political context and are perhaps influenced by what happens in their country of residence," he added. "They might also feel closer to the positions espoused by the [Swiss] government and parliament."

Swiss expatriates are definitely like their counterparts at home when it comes to voter turnout, which was close to the domestic rate.

But the OSA believes there is still work to do to get more Swiss abroad to cast their ballots.

"We have launched a campaign to make the Swiss abroad more aware of their political rights," said Wyder about the fact that only one in six Swiss expatriates are registered to vote.

"We want them to register and to make sure they use these rights as well as be politically active."

swissinfo

Key facts

There are 623,057 Swiss expatriates - about a tenth of the Swiss population.

Swiss Abroad votes:

Geneva: 62.3% for the moratorium (64.6% for voters actually in Geneva); 59.6% for Sunday trading (55.1%)

Vaud: 50.5% against the moratorium (62.63% in favour); 72.7% for Sunday trading (54.3% against in canton Vaud)

Lucerne: 50.5% against the ban (53.5% for); 70.3% for shopping (56.5% against in canton)

Basel City: 52.2% against the ban (50.8% for); 71.9% for Sunday trading (58.8% for)

end of infobox


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