Switzerland votes against putting ′Swiss Law First′ | News | DW

Some 66 percent of voters and all of the country’s 26 cantons voted on Sunday against the “Swiss law, not foreign judges” measure.

The measure, backed by rightwing groups, called for domestic law to be placed above international law, a move that opponents claim would damage the neutral country’s global standing.

Switzerland’s direct democracy system allows voters to cast ballots on national issues four times a year.

Swiss voters were deciding on a set of referenda including a proposed constitutional amendment to preserve cow horns headed by a livestock farmer inspired by talking to his herd of cattle.

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With his long beard and array of woolen caps, farmer Capaul has become a household name — and face — across Switzerland

Safeguarding cows

Ahead of the referendum, much of the public attention had been focused on an unusual grassroots campaign that began with few resources and no political support: Farmer Armin Capaul collected the over 100,000 signatures needed to force a national vote on protecting cows’ horns.

The proposal outlined a constitutional amendment that would create incentives for farmers to let horns grow, rather than an outright ban on dehorning.

Capaul maintained that despite attention heaped on him after forcing the national vote, he is not the story. “It’s the cow that’s important, not me,” the farmer, in his 70s, told the AFP news agency at his home in Perrefitte, a rural municipality in the heart of the Jura mountain range.

His cows gave him the idea to push for Sunday’s referendum, said the Alpine herder. “I always talk to my cows in the barn. They asked me if I could do something for them, if I could help them keep their horns,” he said.

The agricultural provision that included the cow dehorning measure was ultimately defeated by a slim margin, with 55 percent nixing it. 

However, Capaul said that his larger effort to protect cattle from unnecessary human abuse had not been a failure.  “I’ve alerted people about animal suffering and I’ve put the cow in the heart of the people,” he told Swiss public broadcaster RTS.  

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Yes to spying on welfare recipients

Polling earlier in November had suggested the outcomes would be too close to call. However, the votes on spying and judicial independence measures were decisive.

An estimated 64.7 percent of voters ultimately backed the government on allowing insurance companies to spy on clients. 

Sunday’s vote brought to a head years of publicly debate on the issue: Insurers in the wealthy Alpine nation had long spied on customers suspected of making false claims, but the practice was halted in 2016 following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

The Swiss government, however, insisted that such surveillance was necessary to curb insurance fraud and to keep costs low for all. Following the European court’s repudiation, Bern updated its legislation in a bid to restore surveillance powers to insurers.

Opponents of the revised surveillance law then mobilized enough supporters under the country’s to force a referendum. 

“What the Swiss wanted to show was that the social safety net is important, but that [for it to work] we all have to be absolutely responsible,” Benjamin Roduit of the center-right Christian Democratic Party told RTS.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told a press conference in the Swiss capital, Bern, that the country’s cabinet welcomed the result, as it highlighted the importance of Switzerland’s institutions and its direct democracy. “The institutions are set up so there is a balance of power, and compromises must be made. Nobody can decide everything,” she said. “All or nothing, black or white; that is not what has made Switzerland so successful.”

kl/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, Tribune de Geneve, Neue Zürcher Zeitung)

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