Expat guide to Switzerland's national referendums in September 2021

Expat guide to Switzerland's national referendums in September 2021

With the September round of referendums in Switzerland only two weeks away, here’s what expats need to know about the upcoming vote.

National referendums occur four times in Switzerland

Four times every year, Swiss citizens are able to vote in popular or national referendums. These votes determine policy for the government and can affect all different areas of the state, from the tax system to foreign policy.

Referendums can be proposed by the public through a "popular initiative" or can be proposed by Swiss political parties. If the government wants to change something fundamental to Swiss law, like a change to the constitution, this must also become a referendum.

Marriage for all initiative aims for equality between same-sex couples

The first vote on the national referendum list is the “marriage for all” initiative, a public referendum that aims to eliminate civil partnerships in Swiss law in favour of civil marriages. The initiative was initially proposed in 2013 and has taken four years to get to a referendum.

This would allow same-sex couples to have a civil marriage, with all the benefits that accompany it, such as joint forms when filing a tax return or simplified naturalisation when applying for citizenship. The new law would also include rights for female couples to access sperm donation.

The Federal Council has supported the initiative, saying that it was not the government’s job to interfere in the personal lives of citizens. Supporters of the referendum hope that this vote will allow for greater equality for the LGBTQ+ community and give same-sex couples the opportunity to have the same marital rights as mixed-sex couples.

Opponents of the law say that the question has to include a change to Switzerland’s constitution and that the initiative does not take a “child’s wellbeing into account.” However, the vote has divided Switzerland's largest political party, and current polling puts support for the initiative at 80 percent.

Juso’s 99 percent initiative would change taxation in Switzerland

The second national referendum up for a vote is that of the "99 percent initiative." The name is a reference to the well-known financial dynamic between the richest 1 percent and the rest of the population. 

The initiative was proposed by the Young Socialists and would see an increase in taxation for the top 1 percent of earners. It is hoped that this would lead to a tax decrease for the rest of the population over time, as well as provide more funding for social security.

The referendum has support among young people, who claim that the initiative will allow Switzerland to become more equal and equate employees with salaries with entrepreneurs. Opponents of the bill say that the initiative lacks detail in what it hopes to accomplish and does not take into account the mechanisms already in place to tackle wealth inequality within the Swiss tax system.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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