Updated to reflect the results of the September 27th vote!

After the cancellation of the May 17 vote due to Covid-19, Swiss citizens will be voting on five separate issues this Sunday, September 27th (in addition to ballot measures at the canton and commune level). It will mark the first nationwide vote since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a stacked ballot, with several subjects rolled over from May, plus two additional items. About 5.4 million Swiss citizens/residents are eligible to head to the polls.

Even if you’re not eligible to vote in Switzerland, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Swiss news and current events. The outcome of these votes can directly impact you, your family, work, and more. Check out our summary below of the big issues up for a vote this weekend:

  • Withdrawing from EU freedom of movement agreement. This perennial migration issue is the most high profile on the ballot. If the initiative passes, the Swiss government must discard the freedom of movement agreement (in force since 2002) with the EU within a year. Furthermore, if no solution is found with Brussels (after one year), the Swiss government should end the freedom of movement agreement within a month, triggering the “guillotine clause,” ie. risking the collapse of other important bilateral agreements with the EU. For more details, click here.

Result: Rejected. This initiative was rejected by 61.7% of Swiss voters, sending a message of approval of the government’s policy of bilateral agreements with the EU.

  • Revising the Swiss Hunting Act. This issue is key for environmentalists, hunters, and anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Throughout Switzerland, bears, lynx, and wolves (among others) are protected species. But every year, several hundred sheep are killed by (around 80) wolves living in Switzerland, primarily in the canton of Valais. Despite a government fund reimbursing farmers for their losses, the Federal Council and Parliament believe that more is needed. The initiative seeks to shift control of managing animal populations from the federal level to the cantons, and to legalize a more preventive approach to culling wildlife. Opposition abounds. For more information, visit this link.

Result: Rejected. The initiative to change the Hunting Act was rejected by another slim margin (51.9% vs. 48.1%).

  • Federal taxation – The general childcare deduction. This deduction, set to be increased from CHF 6,500 to CHF 10,000 on taxable income, is the subject of a referendum. The referendum comes on the heels of an increase in the federal deduction for 3rd-party childcare costs from CHF 10,100 to CHF 25,000. The controversy surrounding this issue is whether most of the benefit will go to already-wealthy families. For more details on this issue, click here.

Result: Rejected. Swiss voters (63.2%) rejected the government’s plan to increase the per child deduction on taxable income. Only two cantons (Geneva and Ticino) had majorities in favor of the plan.

  • Purchasing fighter jets. Another recurring issue is whether to authorize the Federal Council to purchase fighter jets for the Swiss military. Parliament has already made this authorization, to the tune of CHF 6 billion, but opposition groups have mobilized a referendum to cancel the purchasing plan. The last time a similar measure was on the ballot was 2014, when the purchase of the jets was rejected by 53.4% of voters. For more details, read more here.

Result: Accepted. The measure to purchase the jets was approved by voters with a razor-thin margin (50.1% vs. 49.9%).

  • Two weeks of paternity leave. Switzerland is behind many of its European peers when it comes to paternity leave, despite 20 years of discussing the introduction of a nationwide policy. The country only stipulates a 14-week maternity leave for new mothers. Paternity leave is at the discretion of each employer. With this proposal, new fathers will be entitled to two weeks of paid paternity leave (80% of their salary), to be taken in the first six months following the birth of their child. The cost of the new measure is estimated to be CHF 230 million/year and would require an increase in employee contributions. For more details, click here.

Result: Accepted. Good news for expecting fathers! This measure was passed by 60.3% of Swiss voters.

Stay tuned for the outcome of these measures, and see how/whether Switzerland makes history this Sunday!

 We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at  http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/