Paedophile vote set to cause headaches

The teddy bears convinced a majority of Swiss voters on the paedophile issue Keystone

A surprise result to tighten legal provisions against paedophile criminals is likely to cause problems for the Swiss authorities after Sunday's vote on the issue.

This content was published on November 30, 2008 - 21:50

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said acceptance of the initiative to do away with a statute of limitations for paedophile crimes posed a number of legal issues that would not be easy to solve.

The government and the major political parties, except for the rightwing Swiss People's Party, were opposed to the initiative, put forward by the Marche Blanche parents' organisation.

Its president, Christine Bussat, welcomed the result but admitted the initiative could not be implemented without further work.

"It was quite a surprise because initiatives usually don't have it that easy in Switzerland. But it's not the first time that an initiative in this direction was successful," commented political scientist Andreas Ladner from the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration in Lausanne.

"We have to remember that there was [not so long ago] an initiative from a very small group, which asked for life-long detention for sexual criminals and it was successful too," he told swissinfo.

"Less permissive" society

On a day when other major issues were put to Swiss voters, the electorate backed a programme allowing heroin addicts to continue to obtain the drug under prescription, angering opponents who feel crime will rise as result.

However, voters turned down the decriminalisation of cannabis, with 63 per cent against an initiative that was supported by the Social Democrats and the
Green Party.

"The heroin programme proved to be very, very successful especially in bigger cities like Zurich and Bern. I suppose people realised that this was a good thing that now needed a sound constitutional basis," Ladner said.

"As far as the liberalisation of cannabis is concerned, I think an initiative like this would have been accepted ten or 15 years ago but now society has grown less permissive and that's probably why people voted against it."

The government had feared that liberalising cannabis could cause problems with its neighbours.

"This could lead to a situation where you have some sort of cannabis tourism in Switzerland because something that is illegal in the European Union would be legal in Switzerland," government spokesman Oswald Sigg toll the Associated Press.

Union defeat

Trade union plans to introduce a flexible retirement age from the age of 62 were also turned down at the ballot box.

"That's a bad result for the unions. People realised that a lower pension age would cost much more and it's not the right moment - having a financial crisis ahead - to spend more money," Ladner said.

Swiss Trade Union Federation President Paul Rechsteiner said people on middle or low incomes had been waiting for 15 years for a solution on the issue of flexible retirement.

He said his organisation would continue to fight for an increase of pensions and resist any attempts to increase the retirement age from the current 65 for men and 64 for women.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

Key facts

Drugs policy, including heroin prescription: 68% yes, 32% no.
Decriminalise cannabis: 37% yes, 63% no.
Statute of limitations for paedophile crimes: 52% yes, 48% no.
Flexible retirement age: 41% yes, 59% no.
Turnout was 46%.

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