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At issue: Halving defence spending and earlier retirement?

Switzerland's direct democracy is a constant source of envy for foreign visitors. They see it as giving voters an effective instrument to chart the course of the country.

On November 26 the Swiss armed forces will be in the spotlight when voters decide whether military expenditure should be halved.

In 1989, Switzerland rejected a proposal to disband the military completely. At the time more than one million voters, 35.5 per cent of those who went to the polls, wanted to do away with the armed forces – a far higher result than expected.

The present initiative to halve spending is less extreme, but the big question is how the recently-announced retirement of the charismatic defence minister, Adolf Ogi, will influence the outcome of the vote. Will it turn into a plebiscite for Ogi?

Switzerland has had an effective social security structure in the form of the national old age pension scheme since 1948. Since then it has gone through constant revision.

The two people’s initiatives on the issue, being presented on November 26, have similar aims. They call for a flexible retirement age for men and women, and for people to be able to retire as early as 62 without incurring any penalty.

Financial questions have been at the centre of the political debate concerning these initiatives. An aging population in Switzerland has presented the old age pension scheme with cash problems.

Today 24 per cent of people gainfully employed are over the age of 65. Official estimates put this figure at 45 by the year 2040 when the so-called baby-boomers will have reached retirement age.

The question is: Will the Swiss be able to afford to take earlier retirement in the future?

Two other proposals being put to the vote on November 26 have been overshadowed somewhat by the army and pension initiatives.

The initiative for lower hospital costs would allow health insurance funds to limit their insurance cover purely to hospital costs.

The new Federal Employees Law would do away with the status of civil servant to enable a more flexible staff policy in the federal administration, the Post Office and Swiss Federal Railways.

Swissinfo provides you with in-depth previews of the two main proposals on this site.

On Sunday, November 26 from 12.30 Swiss time, Swissinfo will have initial trends, projections, results, reactions and opinions. Up-to-date, accurate, complete and available worldwide.

Peter Salvisberg

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR