Swiss voters appear to reject limiting jobs for EU citizens

Clay Curtis
September 28, 2020

A picture taken on September 1, 2020 in Lausanne shows backlit electoral posters that translates from French as "Too much is too much!" All but four of the country's 26 cantons, or states, likewise opposed the plan -- proposed by the Swiss People's Party (SVP) - to give preferential access to jobs, social protection and benefits to people from Switzerland over those from the 27-nation bloc that surrounds it.

The Swiss People's Party (SVP) had called a referendum on the European Union agreement - a vote that was seen as an important test of attitudes towards foreigners who make up a quarter of the population. SVP's initiative called for Switzerland to revise its constitution to ensure it can handle immigration policy autonomously.

The SVP - the biggest party in parliament - has pushed to take back control of immigration, echoing some of the arguments pro-Brexit politicians used in the run-up to Britain's exit from the EU.

But the SVP has eked out surprise victories in the past in its war against tightening relations with the European Union, fuelling concern that Switzerland's relationship with its biggest trading partner could be in jeopardy. SVP lawmaker Celine Amaudruz said it was the mention of the guillotine clause that scared people away from the initiative.

Almost two-thirds of voters felt that scrapping the Swiss-EU deal on free movement would exacerbate the shortage of skilled workers and would endanger Switzerland's wealth, according to a recent survey by the Gfs.Bern polling institute.

More than 450,000 Swiss live in the EU.

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Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported after polls closed at noon that projections based on partial counts indicated most voters had rejected the measure, which was championed by the populist Swiss People's Party.

While the 2014 vote still looms large in Switzerland's collective memory, opinion polls hint that anxiety over immigration has lessened.

The country's voters, according to the preliminary results, have also supported a proposal to introduce two weeks of paid maternity leave for new fathers.

The paternity leave was adopted with 60 per cent of the vote.

Also on the ballot Sunday was a referendum on dishing out six billion Swiss francs (€5.6 billion) for new fighter jets, which squeezed through with a mere 50.1% of votes in favour after a decade of wrangling. This should put an end to a more than decade-long debate about replacing Switzerland's ageing fleet of jets, although another vote could be held once the government determines which planes it is looking to buy. These include a vote on paternity leave and on updating the country's fighter aircraft.

Amid relatively high turnout, voters narrowly blocked an attempt to make it easier to shoot wolves deemed a threat to livestock.

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