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Retirement at 62? Voters will decide

(Keystone)

Drug laws, pensions and planning permission are on the agenda for Swiss voters in the next exercise of direct democracy on November 30.

A poll conducted by the gfs.berne polling and research institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo's parent company, and published on Wednesday shows that voters may well play safe.

Proposals to change the existing state of affairs as well as moves to introduce new laws both seem doomed to fail when they come to a nationwide vote.

Voters appear set to approve the new narcotics law passed by parliament earlier this year, which includes legalised prescription of heroin for severely dependent addicts. The law enjoys the support of 63 per cent of those questioned, the same proportion as in a previous poll in October.

The rightwing People's Party called a referendum to overturn parliament's decision, but only 21 per cent of respondents said they would follow its appeal. All the other major parties support the new law.

While a sizeable majority is in favour of legalising heroin prescriptions, a vote on a proposal to decriminalise cannabis looks as if it will be much tighter.

The poll indicates that the slight advantage the initiative enjoyed in October has gone up in smoke. Now 50 per cent say they will vote against it, and only 38 per cent are still in favour. In the previous poll the figures were 42 and 45 respectively.

Claude Longchamp of the gfs research institute told swissinfo that people were swayed by the desire to protect young people, and think that a ban is the best way to achieve this.

Age of retirement

Another issue where support is slipping away is an initiative proposed by the trade unions, which would introduce a flexible retirement age, allowing people to retire at 62 if they wish to, with no loss of benefit. It still has more supporters than opponents, but at 45 per cent versus 43, the difference is narrow.

Tellingly, it's much narrower than it was in October, when 52 per cent were in favour, and only 30 per cent against.

"Support comes only from western Switzerland and from (Italian-speaking) Ticino, while the German-speaking areas reject it," said Longchamp.

He interpreted the swing against the initiative as reflecting people's fears of a recession. "In such a situation the question of cost seems to be the most important argument against the initiative," he explained.

When things are tough for the economy, people don't want any extra spending. He expects the initiative to be rejected.

Referendum

Laws which have been adopted by parliament can be challenged by the public in a referendum. For such a ballot to take place, at least 50,000 ...

Planning permission

A fourth issue to be decided by voters is a call to curb the powers of environmental groups to appeal against building projects which have been granted planning permission. The proposers of this move believe that it is up to locals to decide what should be built where, and that the right of appeal hampers economic development.

However, the poll showed that only 33 per cent of voters currently agree with them, while 49 per cent want the groups' rights to remain unaltered.

"The proposers hoped to find most support in the agglomerations," said Longchamp. "But even in the large cities they don't have a majority." He expects the call to be turned down.

The fifth subject up for a vote on November 30, which proposes extending the statute of limitations for paedophile crimes, was not included in the survey.

swissinfo, based on an article in German by Renat Künzi and Armando Mombelli

People's initiative

The people's initiative allows every citizen to propose a modification of the constitution. To be valid it must be signed by at least 100,000 ...

Opinion poll

An opinion poll commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo's parent company, found the following intentions on the topics up for November's vote:

Drug policy
The four-pillar drugs policy, including the medical prescription of heroin to addicts, has the backing of 63%, while 21% reject it and 16% are undecided.

38% of respondents said they would approve the decriminalisation of cannabis, 50% came out against, while 12% were still undecided.

Flexible retirement
A trade union proposal to introduce a flexible retirement age from 62 showed 45% in favour 43% against and 12% undecided.

Planning permission
Proposals to curb the powers of environmental groups to appeal against building projects were supported by 33%, opposed by 49% and 18% were undecided.

The proposed extension of the statute of limitations for paedophile crimes - a fifth issue to come to a vote on November 30 – was not included in the survey.

Turnout is expected to average 41%.

The poll was conducted by phone between November 10 and 16.

It questioned 1,209 eligible voters throughout the country, weighting them by language region.

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