2005 Swiss referendums

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Five referendums were held in Switzerland during 2005.[1] The first two were held on 5 June on Switzerland joining the Schengen Area and whether registered partnerships for same-sex couples should be introduced. Both questions were approved.[2] The third was held on 25 September on a federal resolution on extending the agreement on free movement of people to new members of the European Union, and was also approved.[3] The final two were held on 27 November on a popular initiative "for food from an agriculture free of genetic modification" and on a labour law related to the opening times of shops in public transport hubs. Both were approved.[3]

June referendums[edit]



In a 1992 referendum Swiss voters rejected membership of the European Economic Area, which had been seen as a stepping stone on the way to membership of the European Union (EU).[4] Polls consistently showed that the Swiss did not want to join the European Union, which was confirmed in a 2001 referendum where over 75% voted against membership.[5] The traditional Swiss policy of avoiding foreign entanglements was also shown by it not joining the United Nations until 2002.[6] Business and political leaders in Switzerland however were concerned over Switzerland being isolated so the Swiss government pursued a policy of bilateral agreements with the European Union.[7] The EU required Switzerland to join the Schengen Agreement in order that other areas of the relationship, such as trade agreements, could continue.[4]

In the referendum the Swiss were asked to decide whether Switzerland should become part of the Schengen and Dublin agreements. If the Schengen agreement was accepted then Switzerland would have to open their borders and end any systematic checks on identity at the borders by 2007. Switzerland would become part of a passport free zone, however customs controls would remain as Switzerland was not a member of the European Union.[2] The agreements would also mean that Switzerland and the European Union would share information on crime and asylum applications.[7] The Dublin agreement would let Switzerland turn away any asylum applicants who had already claimed asylum in another signatory of the agreements.[8] The Swiss government estimated that this would reduce applications by about 20%.[9]


The Swiss government and parliament approved the accession of Switzerland to the agreements in 2003 but the Swiss People's Party collected 86,000 signatures in order to force a referendum on the agreements.[10] The government sold the agreements as a security arrangement which had nothing to do with membership of the European Union. They said that Switzerland was completely surrounded by the European Union and could not solve problems on their own.[4]

Opponents, including the Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland and the Swiss People's Party,[7] linked the agreements to fears over immigration. They also said that by agreeing to these agreements the government was taking Switzerland closer to European Union membership and that the agreements would give more power to bureaucrats in Brussels.[4]

Opinion polls before the referendum showed about 55% in favour and 35% against, with the rest undecided.[4] As the referendum neared, the polls showed that support was falling, with the rejection of the European constitution in referendums in France and the Netherlands encouraging opponents of the agreements.[11]


Choice Votes %
For 1,477,260 54.6
Against 1,227,042 45.4
Invalid votes 15,710
Blank votes 25,255
Total 2,745,267 100
Registered voters/turnout 4,836,712 56.8
Source: Nohlen

The results showed about 1.47 million voted in favour of the Schenegen agreement which was about 55% of those who voted. Turnout, at 55.9% of voters, was about 10% higher than usual in Swiss referendums.[2] Those Swiss who lived abroad were strongly in favour of joining the Schengen area, while within Switzerland German speakers in eastern Switzerland were mainly against and French speakers in western Switzerland were mainly in favour.[7]

Results by canton[edit]
Swiss EU bilateral treaty referendum results by canton
Canton Yes No Electorate Votes Valid votes Invalid votes
Vaud 144,962 69,643 378,421 217,393 214,605 2,788
Valais 56,407 49,082 192,368 108,198 105,489 2,709
Genève 83,672 49,304 223,612 135,225 132,976 2,249
Bern 201,633 153,062 690,777 358,387 354,695 3,692
Freiburg 54,678 37,526 168,096 93,788 92,204 1,584
Solothurn 49,959 43,559 167,002 94,395 93,518 877
Neuchâtel 44,697 18,307 105,852 63,726 63,004 722
Jura 15,226 9,779 48,632 25,377 25,005 372
Basel-Stadt 45,202 24,765 115,140 70,763 69,967 796
Basel-Landschaft 59,470 42,574 181,146 103,479 102,044 1,435
Aargau 93,323 99,644 369,928 194,078 192,967 1,111
Zürich 280,560 202,580 822,388 492,601 483,140 9,461
Glarus 5,317 8,248 25,037 13,667 13,565 102
Schaffhausen 15,353 17,636 48,203 34,157 32,989 1,168
Appenzell Ausserrhoden 9,976 12,528 36,199 22,686 22,504 182
Appenzell Innerrhoden 1,893 4,119 10,472 6,066 6,012 54
St.Gallen 75,856 85,740 294,030 162,387 161,596 791
Graubünden 29,217 36,228 131,002 66,719 65,445 1,274
Thurgau 36,009 45,124 148,682 83,304 81,133 2,171
Luzern 73,048 74,104 240,825 149,512 147,152 2,360
Uri 5,235 8,285 25,577 13,676 13,520 156
Schwyz 21,135 34,371 91,207 56,958 55,506 1,452
Obwalden 5,706 7,968 23,200 14,173 13,674 499
Nidwalden 7,332 9,844 28,764 17,606 17,176 430
Zug 22,341 19,515 68,641 42,694 41,856 838
Ticino 39,053 63,507 201,511 104,252 102,560 1,692
Source: European Election Database


The government of Switzerland welcomed the results and promised not to ignore opponents of the agreements.[2] The European Commission also welcomed the result of the referendum and described it as an "important step" in Swiss-EU relations.[12] Opponents called on the government to withdraw their application for membership of the European Union.[7] Meanwhile, an upcoming referendum in September on extending the free movement of labour to the 10 newest members of the European Union was seen as likely to be a harder test.[4][7]

Registered partnerships[edit]

Switzerland was the last republic in Europe to give women the right to vote but in this referendum the Swiss became the first in Europe to hold a referendum on increased rights for same-sex couples.[2][13] Approval in the referendum would mean that same-sex couples would be able to register their partnerships at civil register offices. These registered partnerships would be legally binding agreements which could only be dissolved in the courts.[13] Same-sex couples would get the same inheritance, pension, social security and tax rights and obligations as heterosexual couples.[13] However they would not get the right to adopt or get fertility treatment.[2]

A leader of the campaign for the approval of registered partnerships estimated that about 5 to 10% of the population were homosexual however the government did not expect a large number of people to register their partnerships.[13] Registered partnerships had already been introduced in the cantons of Fribourg, Geneva, Neuchâtel and Zurich.[14] Parliament approved the introduction of the registered partnerships but conservatives gathered the necessary number of signatures to force a referendum.[8]

The government's opinion was that Switzerland needed registered partnerships as the current situation gave "insufficient legal protection" for such same-sex relationships.[14] Opponents including the Swiss People's Party, Evangelical People's Party and some church groups opposed the introduction of the partnerships as they wanted to keep marriage and the family as a special status.[13] A poll in April showed 66% in favour and 24% against, while another in May had 67% in favour and 24% against.[13]


The result of the referendum had most cantons in favour of the introduction of the registered partnerships with opposition concentrated mainly in the Roman Catholic central and southern areas of Switzerland.[7]

Choice Votes %
For 1,559,848 58.0
Against 1,127,520 42.0
Invalid votes 15,902
Blank votes 36,110
Total 2,739,380 100
Registered voters/turnout 4,836,712 56.6
Source: Nohlen

September referendum[edit]

Choice Votes %
For 1,458,686 56.0
Against 1,147,140 44.0
Invalid votes 16,535
Blank votes 18,569
Total 2,640,930 100
Registered voters/turnout 4,852,272 54.4
Source: Nohlen

November referendums[edit]

Question For Against Blank/invalid Total Registered
Turnout Cantons for Cantons against
Votes % Votes % Blank Invalid Full Half Full Half
Popular initiative against genetically modified food 1,125,835 55.7 896,4825 44.3 23,046 11,343 2,056,706 4,859,437 42.3 20 6 0 0
Labour law 1,026,833 50.6 1,003,900 49.4 18,281 11,068 2,060,082 42.4
Source: Nohlen


  1. ^ Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, pp1945–1946 ISBN 9783832956097
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Swiss vote to join EU passport-free zone". USA Today. 5 June 2005. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  3. ^ a b Nohlen & Stöver, p1946
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Vote takes Switzerland closer to EU". BBC Online. 5 June 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  5. ^ "Swiss say 'no' to EU". BBC Online. 5 March 2001. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  6. ^ "Swiss voters likely to say 'yes' to closer EU ties". International Herald Tribune. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Swiss vote to join Schengen area". swissinfo. 5 June 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Swiss vote to ease border control". BBC Online. 5 June 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  9. ^ "Swiss say yes to EU Schengen area". EurActiv.com. 6 June 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  10. ^ "Schengen/Dublin Accords Backed By Swiss". Angus Reid Global Monitor. 15 April 2005. Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  11. ^ "Switzerland Voters Approve Referendum". Fox News Channel. 5 June 2005. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  12. ^ "EU hails results of Swiss referendum over Schengan Area". Xinhua News Agency. 6 June 2005. Retrieved 4 March 2009.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Swiss Voters Set to Boost Gay Rights in Referendum". Bloomberg L.P. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  14. ^ a b "Swiss Vote to Expand Gay Couples' Rights; Short of Marriage". Bloomberg L.P. 5 June 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2009.