I just spent an hour fulfilling my civic duty as a Swiss citizen by voting on a myriad of issues. Being an expat since my birth, it only was when I became a Swiss citizen that I actually was allowed to vote anywhere for the first time. I love that the Swiss political systems asks its citizens to share their opinion on various subjects. On February 9th, no less than 7 issues will be voted on and two, in particular, effect expats.
The first motion is on a national level. “Gegen Masseneinwanderung”, launched by the SVP – the ultra conservative party – this motion is aimed at tightening immigration laws. This would call for a smaller amount of permits being given to foreigners to come and work here, and there would be a contingent of how many nationals from each country would be allowed.
It would also affect how long one could stay, whether one could bring family over and whether one could ask for social services if need be. This would also affect the border-crossers, people who live in Germany, Italy and France but work in Switzerland.
The opposition argues that foreigners bring a lot to the country and the culture and help Switzerland be an international player. The consequence of this motion being passed would be that Switzerland risks isolating herself and there would be massive administrative hurdles to be put into place. The parliament is asking the Swiss to vote against this motion.
The second motion concerning expats is on a local level, “Bevölkerungsantrag”, is a motion to allow foreigners living and working in Luzern with valid permits to sign initiatives. Initiatives are the first step towards motions that then get voted on, once enough signatures are collected (50 000 within 100 days), the initiative has to be voted on a local level. This would in effect give foreigners a voice on a local level, which is to be lauded. The town’s council has recommended that this motion be accepted.
The five other motions are:
On a national level – giving the go ahead for a budget increase to improve the national railway system and – taking abortion off the list of health issues covered by insurances.
On a local level – increasing a budget to support affordable living and office space in Luzern – enabling the town to spend money even if a party is querying its budget (Luzern came to a standstill last year when the SVP party did this) and – cancelling a property tax.
A varied list of motions that go to show that Switzerland really is a direct democracy.
If you want to find out more about how the Swiss political system works, this short video explains it quite well: