Swiss divided over need for professional army

More than 60 per cent of German-speaking Swiss think the army militia should be maintained Keystone Archive

A new poll shows that Switzerland's two main language groups have opposite opinions about the need for a professional army.

This content was published on January 8, 2002

According to a survey published by the Swiss food giant, Coop, 64 per cent of French-speaking Swiss favour a professional army, while 32 per cent think Switzerland should keep its army militia.

On the other side of the "Röstigraben", a fictitious divide which has come to symbolize the frequent differences of opinion between the French and German-speaking Swiss, the results were the exact opposite.

Only 32 per cent of German speakers said they wanted a professional army. In contrast, 61 per cent thought the militia system should be maintained.

Overall, 53 per cent of citizens wanted to keep a non-professional army, and 39 thought the opposite; the rest had no opinion.

December vote

During a nationwide vote in December, voters in Switzerland overwhelmingly turned down a proposal aimed at abolishing the armed forces.

Four out of five people at the ballot box rejected proposals by a pacifist group to scrap the armed forces and to set up a voluntary peace corps, funded by the government.

Switzerland is relatively unusual in Europe, in that it continues to operate a militia style army in which every able Swiss man must serve at regular intervals for a good part of his adult life.

Women can join on a voluntary basis.

swissinfo with agencies

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