Switzerland Holding Referendum on Lockdown

Giving the world an example of its famous tradition of direct democracy, Switzerland is to hold a referendum next month on stripping the Government of its legal powers to impose lockdowns. The Financial Times has the details.

Campaign group Friends of the Constitution on Wednesday handed in a petition of 86,000 signatures collected over the past three months, well in excess of the 50,000 required, to formally initiate a nationwide vote to repeal the 2020 COVID-19 Act under Switzerland’s highly devolved democratic system.

The outcome will be legally binding, with a vote scheduled for as early as June.

While the pandemic has exposed social and political fractures across Europe over the rights of citizens, in Switzerland, where individuals’ rights are often treated as culturally sacrosanct and Government powers are sharply proscribed by law, the strains have become particularly evident.

“In our opinion, the [Government] is taking advantage of the pandemic to introduce more control and less democracy,” Christoph Pfluger, a board member of Friends of the Constitution, told the Financial Times.

He added: “The long-term problems that will arise from this kind of approach will be grave. We are a movement that says crisis management cannot be done without the will of the sovereign, the people. You cannot govern without the people.”

Mr Pfluger said Switzerland would be the first and perhaps the only country to give its citizens a direct vote on coronavirus restrictions.

Until late December, Bern’s governing Federal Council had been reluctant to impose restrictions during the second wave of the pandemic.

Staunch opposition from many Swiss to further curbs and dire warnings from several of the country’s most powerful and influential lobbying groups about the economic consequences of another shutdown forestalled action in the run-up to Christmas, even as case numbers rocketed.

A poll conducted by Switzerland’s Sotomo Research Institute for state broadcaster SRF in November found that 55% of Swiss were concerned about their individual freedoms being restricted by Government measures. The same survey found that even an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants was considered too restrictive by a third of Swiss respondents.

Worth reading in full.

statement on the Friends of the Constitution’s website reads:

The sovereign people will be able to decide whether to legitimise the Government’s management of the pandemic. Their decision will be decisive for dangerous viruses will continue to spread in Switzerland in the future. Shall we, by accepting the COVID-19 law, signal to the Government that it should react to future pandemics by destroying our livelihoods? Or shall we, by rejecting this bad law, show the Government that the sovereign people reject disproportionate and reckless management of the pandemic?

We hope that a successful referendum will enable an evidence-based debate which takes account of the devastating damage caused by measures taken by the Government. For a truly united and free Switzerland worth living in.

Bravo Friends of the Constitution.

Stop Press: Off Guardian reports on the #IOAPRO (I Am Open) campaign, which is set to see 50,000 Italian restaurant owners defy restrictions and open their restaurants in an act of civil disobedience. The #IOAPRO movement is already spreading into Poland and parts of Switzerland. Come on, England. What are you waiting for?