Swiss democracy


picture, Daniel Zannantonio

Switzerland is a perfect example of democracy in practice. The citizens get to vote on just about everything before it can become law. This weekend we had another vote. There were 3 things on the cards. The first one was about making it easier for 3rd generation residents to get Swiss citizenship. We were looking at maybe 22000 young people who would benefit from it, yet the Swiss Peoples party, a racist and right wing party, immediately ramped up their propaganda, trying to install fear into the populace that we would be overrun with burka clad Muslims grabbing the passports. It was a non sense campaign that caused a lot of controversy and which the people recognised for what it was. The motion was passed by a large majority in favour of easing the rules and the costs for the 3rd generation.

A further vote was about a national fund for transport financing, financed by fuel and car taxes. I was not actually in favour of this fund, as we do not need more roads, and currently the money from road and fuel tax goes into the common pot, so it would no longer do that. But this was one of those issues that few saw issues with, and so it also went through by a large majority.

The final issue was about taxation, a complex issue related to the end of tax privileges for holding companies, and a reduction in tax rates for all companies, and some new privileges for all companies in the area of patent boxes, R&D super deductions and notional interest on capital.  Most people did not understand it really, and that is where those who wanted the motion to pass failed to educate people. They focused on the fact that the motion had to go through in order that the holding companies did not leave, and that it would be good for all companies. They did not say what would replace all the missing tax income, whether services would be cut to pay for it, or the ordinary man would have to pay more. The opposition raised their voices suggesting that everyone would end up paying more tax, while rich shareholders got richer. I read somewhere that those pushing for a yes, spent 3.1 million on publicity, whereas those against spent a fraction of that at around 170,000. Money clearly well spent, as a clear majority voted against the motion.

Now there is much wringing of hands by the government who need to come up with a new plan and quickly. Too quickly apparently. They would also be well advised to ensure that people understand it, and that they listen to the questions of how will the fiscal gap be filled, and maybe not listen quite as much to the big 4 tax advisory companies. 🙂