Plans to end a long-running territorial dispute by reuniting the French-speaking minority in canton Bern with neighbouring canton Jura have suffered a serious setback.
About 72% of voters in the Bernese districts on Sunday rejected the proposal, putting on ice the proposed creation of an enlarged canton Jura in northwestern Switzerland.
Despite the setback, individual communes can still organise a ballot at a local level within two years aimed at joining canton Jura.
In canton Jura itself, 77% of voters on Sunday came out in favour of a merger.
The federal authorities sent a group of election observers to monitor the ballot. No incidents were reported, according to officials.
The Jura issue is considered the most serious territorial dispute in recent Swiss history. A protracted political procedure and militant activities by separatists led to the creation of Switzerland’s 26th canton, as part of constitutional amendment in a nationwide ballot in 1979.
Bordering France, canton Jura has a 71,000-stong population which is predominantly French-speaking and Catholic.
The entire Jura region in Switzerland is divided among five cantons.