2009 Swiss referendums

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Eight referendums were held in Switzerland during 2009. The first was held on 8 February on extending the freedom of movement for workers from Bulgaria and Romania. The next two were held on 17 May 2009 on introducing biometric passports and the "Future with complementary medicine" proposal. A further two were held on 27 September on increasing VAT and the introduction of public initiatives. The final three were held on 29 November on banning the construction of new minarets, exporting weapons and the use of aviation fuel taxation.

February referendum[edit]

The February referendum was held on extending the freedom of movement for workers within the European Union to Bulgaria and Romania, who joined the EU on 1 January 2007, and on removing the sunset provision from the agreement. If Swiss voters had rejected the continuation and extension, the EU would likely have invoked the so-called "guillotine clause" to terminate all agreements made as part of the bilateral treaties.[1]

A poll from January 2009 saw 49% in favour of extending the agreement, 40% opposed and 11% undecided; 48% of voters said they would participate in the referendum.[2]

The referendum concluded with a vote in favour of the extension, with German and French-speaking cantons mostly voting in favour (except for narrow votes against in Schwyz, Glarus and Appenzell Innerrhoden) and the Italian-speaking Ticino strongly voting against.[3]

The result caused the left-wing Green Party and the Social Democratic Party to state that they would renew their push for Swiss EU membership.[4]

Choice Votes %
For 1,517,132 59.61
Against 1,027,899 40.39
Invalid/blank votes 27,009
Total 2,572,040 100
Registered voters/turnout 4,999,618 51.44
Source: Direct Democracy

May referendums[edit]

The two referendums in May concerned:

The biometric passport introduction approval was accepted with a slim majority, with 50.15% in favour of the proposal; the complementary medicine proposal was accepted with 67.0% in favour. Turnout was 39%.

Biometric passports[edit]

Choice Votes %
For 953,173 50.15
Against 947,493 49.85
Invalid/blank votes 42,191
Total 1,942,857 100
Registered voters/turnout 5,010,873 38.77
Source: Direct Democracy

Complementary medicine[edit]

Choice Public vote Cantons
Votes % Full Half Total
For 1,283,894 67.03 20 6 23
Against 631,560 32.97 0 0 0
Invalid/blank votes 28,805
Total 1,944,259 100 20 6 23
Registered voters/turnout 5,010,873 38.80
Source: Direct Democracy

September referendums[edit]

The September referendum put two questions to voters:[5]

VAT increase[edit]

Choice Public vote Cantons
Votes % Full Half Total
For 1,112,818 54.56 11 2 12
Against 926,730 45.44 9 4 11
Invalid/blank votes 23,580
Total 2,063,128 100 20 6 23
Registered voters/turnout 5,030,915 41.01
Source: Direct Democracy

Public initiatives[edit]

Choice Public vote Cantons
Votes % Full Half Total
For 1,307,237 67.88 20 6 23
Against 618,664 32.12 0 0 0
Invalid/blank votes 108,192
Total 2,034,093 100 20 6 23
Registered voters/turnout 5,030,915 40.43
Source: Direct Democracy

November referendums[edit]

The results of the November 2009 referendum on minarets by canton. Red indicates opposition to the ban of minarets, green support of the ban.

In the November referendum voters decide on three proposals on the federal level:[6]

There were numerous other issues voted upon at the cantonal and municipal levels.

Minaret ban[edit]

Only one political party, the right wing Swiss People's Party supported the referendum. It aimed at stopping the "Islamization of Switzerland".[8] Pakistani newspaper The Nation on 30 January 2010 carried a fabricated story according to which "the first man who had launched a drive for imposition of ban on mosques minarets" had seen the error of his "evil ways" and had converted to Islam, which had supposedly "created furore in Swiss politics", claiming that Streich "is ashamed of his doings now and desires to construct the most beautiful mosque of Europe in Switzerland." [9] Tikkun Daily on 5 February debunked The Nation's story as a distorted version of a report on Daniel Streich, a Swiss Muslim who left the Swiss People's Party because he was outraged with their campaign.[10]

Final results showed 57.5% of voters in favour of the ban, 19.5 cantons out of 23 in favour of the proposals.[11]

Choice Public vote Cantons
Votes % Full Half Total
For 1,535,010 57.50 17 5 19.5
Against 1,134,440 42.50 3 1 3.5
Invalid/blank votes 39,837
Total 2,709,287 100 20 6 23
Registered voters/turnout 5,039,676 53.76
Source: Direct Democracy

Key to above graph:

Horizontal axis: abbreviations of Swiss cantons
Red: percentage opposed to ban
Green: percentage supporting ban

Arms export[edit]

The arms referendum sought to ban the export of military weapons and ammunition, in order to further reduce Switzerland's involvement in war. Current law prohibits the exports of materiel to countries involved in armed conflict, or violating human rights. The Swiss arms industry warned of possible job losses if passed, and the cabinet recommended against it saying that existing legislation offers enough protections. The group backing the initiative argued that weapons exports contradict the country's neutrality. A similar initiative was defeated in 1997.

Voters rejected the proposal by 68.2%, with 31.5% in favour of the measure. Turnout was 53%.[12]

Choice Public vote Cantons
Votes % Full Half Total
For 837,156 31.77 0 0 0
Against 1,798,132 68.23 20 3 23
Invalid/blank votes 55,200
Total 2,690,488 100 20 6 23
Registered voters/turnout 5,039,676 53.39
Source: Direct Democracy

Aviation fuel taxation[edit]

The aviation fuel tax referendum was initiated by centre-right and right members of parliament to direct much of the taxes on kerosene to airport spending. Previously two-thirds of the taxes collected were spent on road safety, with the rest going to the federal general fund. The initiative directs the two-thirds to aviation safety and environmental concerns, with the remainder continuing to be used for discretionary spending.[13]

Voters approved the measure with 65% in favour.[14]

Choice Public vote Cantons
Votes % Full Half Total
For 1,609,682 64.99 20 6 23
Against 867,113 35.01 0 0 0
Invalid/blank votes 175,410
Total 2,652,205 100 20 6 23
Registered voters/turnout 5,039,676 52.63
Source: Direct Democracy

Cantonal referendums[edit]

In the canton of Obwalden, the voting population turned down plans to reserve sections of land for the wealthy, officially designated "high quality standard of life zones of cantonal interest". These zones were part of Obwalden's strategy of increasing tax attractiveness in competition with other cantons. The referendum was successfully opposed by the cantonal section of the Swiss Green Party. Obwalden already has a flat tax system for the benefit of its rich residents, and attempted to introduce a regressive tax system, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Swiss Federal Court.[15]


  1. ^ Beekman, Rene (2009-01-01). "Swiss federations urge for open labour markets". The Sofia Echo. Retrieved 2009-02-08.
  2. ^ "Befürworter mit 9 Prozent Vorsprung". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2009-02-08.
  3. ^ Hershman, Gabriel (2009-02-08). "Switzerland votes 'yes' in key labour market referendum". The Sofia Echo. Retrieved 2009-02-08.
  4. ^ "Linke lanciert neue EU-Beitrittsdebatte" (in German). baz.online. 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
  5. ^ Swiss referendum September 27, 2009. IFES Election Guide.
  6. ^ "Minarett-Initiative kommt Ende November vors Volk" (in German). NZZ. 1 July 2009.
  7. ^ "Switzerland Approves Minaret Ban In Referendum". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
  8. ^ "Switzerland bans minarets, could face Strasbourg court". RIA Novosti. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
  9. ^ Swiss antagonist of minarets embraces Islam Archived 2013-04-28 at WebCite; The Nation; January 30, 2010,
  10. ^ Minarets and the Conversion of a Swiss Politician: Separating Facts from Fantasy
  11. ^ "Minaret ban wins Swiss support". Al Jazeera. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
  12. ^ "Weapons export ban rejected by voters". Swissinfo. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009.
  13. ^ Regional airports to benefit from modified aviation fuel tax, supporters say - swissinfo
  14. ^ "Unbestrittene Kerosinsteuer". NZZ. 30 November 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  15. ^ Obwalden votes against rich "ghetto zone", swissinfo.ch 29 November 2009.