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Swiss reject road proposal

Traffic piles up on the way to the Gotthard tunnel Keystone Archive

The Swiss have rejected government proposals to ease traffic congestion, with a majority of the cantons voting "no".

This content was published on January 29, 2004 - 14:20

Near-final results indicate that they have also turned down a plan to change the law on rents but have voted in favour of a controversial proposal to lock up violent offenders for life.

The results, released by the GfS insitute for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation show, in the main, a clear tendency to vote against government-backed proposals and recommendations.

The road transport and violent offenders votes would entail changes to the constitution and need the double majority of cantons and the popular vote to pass, but the rent vote only needs a simple majority of votes cast.

Cantons have voted against the government plan to ease traffic congestion by upgrading the country’s main roads and investing in public transport.

That was a counter-proposal to the so-called Avanti initiative, which was launched in 2000 and called for a second road tunnel through the Gotthard – Switzerland’s main north-south axis through the Alps.

The initiative was later withdrawn after the government came up with its own plans, in which up to SFr350 million of public money would be set aside annually to tackle traffic congestion.

But parliament forced the government to include the possibility of building a second tunnel in its proposals.

Opponents had argued that a second road tunnel through the Gotthard was unnecessary, costly and contravened Switzerland’s policy of protecting the Alps.

They also criticised the costs of plan at a time when massive public spending cuts are being made.

Rents

The results also show a rejection of government-backed proposals to link rents to inflation rather than mortgage rates.

The government argued that the change would put an end to landlords being able to raise rents every time there is an increase in mortgages, but failing to reduce rents when there is a drop in the rates.

But opponents claimed that the plan would make it easier for landlords to force through rent increases and get rid of existing tenants just to profit from the chance of raising the rent.

They also warned the change would lead to increased costs for a majority of the Swiss population – 70 per cent of whom live in rented accommodation.

Violent offenders

The third issue the Swiss were voting on was a people’s initiative to tighten the laws on the release into the community of violent offenders.

Partial results indicate strong support for the proposal, dealing an unexpected blow to the government, which opposed the plan.

The initiative was launched by a group of victims and families of victims, and has the backing of the rightwing People’s Party.

It called for offenders found guilty of sexual and violent crimes to be locked away for life if they are deemed to be a risk to society after a single psychological assessment carried out at the time of conviction.

The government said its own revision of the criminal law – due to come into effect in 2006 – is sufficient to protect society from such offenders.

It was also concerned that the proposed changes would undermine Switzerland’s commitment to international human rights treaties, and in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees offenders regular psychological assessments.

swissinfo

Key facts

The Swiss normally vote four times a year on national policy issues.
The last time the Swiss went to the polls was on October 19, 2003 to cast their ballots in parliamentary elections.
The road transport and violent offenders votes would entail changes to the constitution and need the double majority of cantons and the popular vote to pass.
The rent vote only needs a simple majority of votes cast.

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