Nuclear ban thrown out at the ballot box

The future of Leibstadt, and other nuclear plants, seems secure Keystone

The Swiss have voted to preserve nuclear power, by throwing out two proposals, one of which would have shut down the industry altogether.

This content was published on May 18, 2003

Other issues rejected include equal rights for the disabled, better protection for tenants and proposals to make the rich pay more for health care.

Trends and exit polls from Switzerland's leading research institute, GfS, showed the vote had gone the government's way, in a ballot with the highest number of issues since 1866.

That did not appear to have put voters off, and turnout at 46 per cent was above average.

The cabinet had recommended that voters throw out all seven people's initiatives, and approve only the two referenda issues - reform of the army and civil protection.

The seven initiatives need the double majority of the popular vote and the cantons to pass.

Outright rejection

Voters gave short shrift to both nuclear proposals - one on a total ban, the other on extending an existing moratorium on building new plants.

They also dismissed outright initiatives urging an overhaul of the health insurance system and improved rights for tenants.

Exit polls showed 74 per cent of voters against the healthcare reforms, and 71 per cent opposed to the tenants' initiative.

The Social Democrat-backed health care initiative, which wants to link premiums to income and personal wealth, was always seen as controversial.

Political analyst Hans Hirter told swissinfo that although the proposals had popular support, the required overhaul of the health insurance system would probably prove too dramatic for most Swiss.

Disabled rights

Another controversial issue being decided on Sunday was
the issue of whether to force the government to guarantee the country's 700,000 disabled access to public buildings and transport.

Despite the strong moral argument for granting equality to the disabled, exit polls indicated that 64 per cent had followed the government's recommendations and rejected the proposal.

The cabinet had argued that a "yes" vote would break both federal and cantonal budgets.

According to the exit polls, the government also got its way over the two referenda on army reform and changes to the law on civil protection.

Sixty-six per cent of the electorate voted "yes" to army reform, while 70 per cent gave their backing to the civil protection legislation.

Government recommendations

With so many issues on the ballot paper, Hirter said the government's position would certainly have influenced how some people voted.

He said that studies on voting behaviour showed that the Swiss - particularly those who are less well informed on an issue - tended to follow the government's advice.

"They'll look at what the party they support has to say and at what the government is recommending, and often they'll use that as a guide to how they should vote.

"But if they have strong views on a subject, the influence of the government's stance is far weaker."

The other issues being decided included car-free Sundays and the right to apprenticeships.

swissinfo with agencies

vote summary

Issues included on the May 18 ballot paper:
Equal rights for the disabled.
Extending the moratorium on building and upgrading nuclear plants.
Closing down of nuclear power stations.
Revision of the health law.
Improved rights for tenants.
Car-free Sundays.
Right to apprenticeships.
Revision of the army law.
New proposals for civil protection.

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