Decisions on constitutional amendments by the Swiss sovereign on March 8 2015

by Thomas Fleiner

On March 8, the Swiss voters and the cantons had to decide on two popular initiatives. They rejected both. The first constitutional peoples’ initiative was rejected by 75% of all voters and without any canton supporting the new constitutional article 116, which would have exempted family-allocations and educational allocations for children from taxes. The second vote concerned a popular initiative, which sought to establish a new federal competence authorising the federal legislature to establish new taxes for not renewable energies. Only 8% of the voters accepted this initiative and none of the cantons did support it. This is historic because only some 80 years ago a popular initiative got more support by the voters. The participation for both decisions was only 43

The main reason three fourth of the voters rejected the tax-exemption for allocations was probably the actual strength of the Swiss franc and the deficit of the federal income in 2014. Namely, the ministers of the cantonal finances argued that such a constitutional article could have a negative effect on cantonal income taxes. The supporters argued that state allocations, which taxpayers have to return to the state with their taxes, are absurd. The argument that such system would privilege the rich against the poor was also in favour of the rejection.

The constitutional popular initiative, which wanted to change the tax system and thus replace the added value tax with a tax on nonrenewable energy failed for many different reasons. The people prefer the value added tax because this is a tax they know and can foresee its amount. The argument of the advocates of the initiative that an exit from nuclear and fossil fuel energy is only possible with such a tax did not convince the majority of the people. It is certain that some voters also voted against this constitutional initiative because they reject the policy of our government to exit from the nuclear and, maybe even from, the fossil-fuel energy. Thus, it will be difficult for politicians to use this dramatic defeat for their own political interpretation of the will of the people for their future political policies. This vote is historic, because only in 1923 the peoples had rejected an initiative with a similar majority of 89% against only 11% of supporters. This popular initiative had required the state to put any citizen who is disturbing the public order into protective custody!

On March 8, there was also the canton of Nidwalden, which rejected an initiative to provide in primary school only the obligation to study one foreign language. This initiative would in fact abolish the importance of the second national language, which is French. For this reason, the French speaking cantons considered that this initiative would damage the multilingual harmony in Switzerland. Now many Swiss are happy to see that this canton has upheld the mandatory education in French.


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