Sunday shopping and financial aid: How Switzerland’s referendum results will affect you

Aside from the three issues voted on the national level on Sunday, citizens of six Swiss cantons cast their ballots on a total of 11 proposals. Here’s an overview of what the issues were.

Sunday shopping and financial aid: How Switzerland's referendum results will affect you
The nationality of foreign offenders will be revealed in Zurich. ALLISON DINNER / AFP

Basel-Country: Revised law against illegal work

After years of controversy over labour market controls in the construction industry, the canton will now revise illegal employment laws. 

The revision of the law on combating undeclared work was approved by 85.4 percent of the votes. And 84 percent voted in favour of the related revision of the Labour Market Supervision Act.

Bern: Sunday shop openings rejected, anti-smoking initiative approved

The proposal sought to extend Sunday sales in the canton to four Sundays a month, instead of the current two.

But 53.9 percent of voters rejected this proposal, in line with recommendations from trade unions and green parties.

At the same time, 72.9 percent of the electorate voted in favour of improved protection of minors from smoking. The same legal requirements now apply to e-cigarettes as to conventional products.

Geneva: Financial aid for people with low incomes

More than 68 percent of voters accepted a proposal to compensate residents who suffered financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The law provides for compensation of 80 percent of income, capped at 4,000 francs per month. This aid is to be paid out retrospectively for the period of the first shutdown, from March 17th to May 16th, 2020.

Luzern: University location to be expanded

Luzern will establish a public company that will expand and operate the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts campus in the municipality of Horw on the canton’s behalf.

Nearly 69 percent of the canton’s electorate approved the project.

Additionally, a loan of 26.1 million francs for the improvement works to the K36 cantonal road in the communities of Schüpfheim and Escholzmatt-Marbach was approved by 82.7 percent of votes.

The road is at risk of falling stones and authorities want to make it safer for drivers.

Zurich: Nationalities of criminals to be divulged and municipalities to employ social detectives

The initiative by Swiss People’s Party, which required authorities to disclose the offenders’ migration background, was turned down, but the watered-down counter-proposal of the cantonal council was approved by 55.2 percent of voters.

Zurich police would now have to indicate the nationalities of suspects in their media releases, but not their ‘migration background’ or ethnicity.

READ MORE: Should a suspect’s ethnicity be made public by police?

More than 67 percent also cast their votes in favour of allowing Zurich to employ ‘social detectives’ to track down insurance claimants they suspect of cheating the system.

Zug: Tax rate is lowered

The canton’s proposal to  lower the tax rate over the next three years was approved by 66.4 percent of the electorate.

The tax cut will be implemented  to deal with the financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can I deduct working-from-home costs from my Swiss taxes?

On the other hand, just over 65 percent rejected a proposal to extend shop opening times in the canton by one hour — until 8pm on weekdays and 6pm on Saturday.

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Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum

Switzerland's decision to purchase US-made fighter jets could be put to a referendum,

Swiss decision to purchase US fighter jets could force second referendum
Swiss fighter jets. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Switzerland’s government on Wednesday backed the purchase of 36 F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin to replace its fleet and five Patriot air defence units from fellow US manufacturer Raytheon.

Switzerland’s current air defence equipment will reach the end of its service life in 2030 and has been undergoing a long and hotly-contested search for replacements.

“The Federal Council is confident that these two systems are the most suitable for protecting the Swiss population from air threats in the future,” the government said in a statement.

‘No Trump fighter jets’: Swiss don’t want to buy American planes

The decision will now be put to the Swiss parliament — and also risks being challenged at the ballot box, with left-wingers and an anti-militarist group looking to garner enough signatures to trigger a public vote.

The F-35A was chosen ahead of the Airbus Eurofighter; the F/A-18 Super Hornet by Boeing; and French firm Dassault’s Rafale.

For the ground-based air defence (GBAD) system, Patriot was selected ahead of SAMP/T by France’s Eurosam.

“An evaluation has revealed that these two systems offer the highest overall benefit at the lowest overall cost,” the government statement said. Switzerland is famously neutral. However, its long-standing position is one of armed neutrality and the landlocked European country has mandatory conscription for men.

“A fleet of 36 aircraft would be large enough to cover Switzerland’s airspace protection needs over the longer term in a prolonged situation of heightened tensions,” the government said.

“The air force must be able to ensure that Swiss airspace cannot be used by foreign parties in a military conflict.” 

Long path to decision 

Switzerland began to seek replacements for its ageing fleet of fighter jets more than a decade ago, but the issue has become caught up in a political battle in the wealthy Alpine nation.

The Swiss government has long argued for the need to quickly replace its 30 or so F/A-18 Hornets, which will reach the end of their lifespan in 2030, and the F-5 Tigers, which have been in service for four decades and are not equipped for night flights.

In 2014, the country looked set to purchase 22 Gripen E fighter jets from Swedish group Saab, only to see the public vote against releasing the funds needed to go forward with the multi-billion-dollar deal.

Bern launched a new selection process four years later, and a referendum last year to release six billion Swiss francs ($6.5 billion) for the purchase of the fighters of the government’s choice squeezed through with 50.1 percent of voters in favour.

During the referendum campaign, the government warned that without a swift replacement for its fleet, “Switzerland will no longer be in a position to protect and even less defend its airspace by 2030”.

Currently, the fleet does not have the capacity to support ground troops for reconnaissance missions or to intervene against ground targets.

Meanwhile Switzerland’s current GBAD system is also old and lacks the capacity to meet the widening spectrum of modern threats.

The military currently relies on a range of Rapier and Stinger short-range missiles that have been in service since 1963.