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Switzerland will put Covid lockdowns to referendum as unease grows

A Swiss campaign group has gathered enough signatures to trigger a referendum on Covid-19 restrictions in the country. 

The Friends of the Constitution organisation collected 86,000 signatures which sparked a legal procedure under Swiss law to initiate a national vote on whether or not to repeal the 2020 Covid-19 Act. Switzerland has an usually devolved democratic system and referendums can be triggered by gathering a minimum of 50,000 supporters.

The Financial Times reports that “a poll found that 55 per cent of Swiss were concerned about their individual freedoms being restricted by government measures imposed to tackle rising infections.”  The survey also found that a third of respondents believed that even an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants was too restrictive.

Autonomy and personal freedom are considered to be of key importance to inhabitants of the mountainous mid-European country, and the Covid-19 restrictions are seen as giving too much control to the government.

It’s ‘direct democracy’ system saw Swiss people voting last year on issues as diverse as tax allowances for children and hunting wolves

The outcome of the referendum will be legally binding and would overturn government decisions, with a vote expected in June.

Until recently, the Swiss government had avoided a national lockdown and refused to compel its ski resorts to close. That changed on December 18, when the national government in Bern ordered a nationwide shutdown of restaurants, bars and leisure facilities until the end of February.

The government said it had to respond to a surge in case numbers, but campaigners for a referendum on the lockdown said they were “astonished” by the level of support for their initiative, which led to the signatories being gathered in weeks.

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