Switzerland debates creating 27th canton made up of Swiss expats

Switzerland debates creating 27th canton made up of Swiss expats

In one of the stranger announcements this month, members of the Green, Green Liberal (GLP) and Social Democratic (SP) Parties have voiced their support for creating a 27th canton of Switzerland. However, instead of creating a new canton by following through on the April Fools joke and re-conquering Konstanz, the proposal would see Swiss citizens living abroad amalgamated into a single political entity.

Swiss officials debate adding 27th canton

In a statement given to RTS, the GLP voiced their support for adding a 27th canton when deciding the results of Swiss elections and referendums and said that they would be putting forward the plan when parliament resumes. The 27th canton - sometimes called the “fifth Switzerland” - would be made up of the 800.000 Swiss citizens who live abroad - roughly the same population as Canton Vaud.

According to a poll from the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (ASO), approximately 220.000 of these Swiss expats continue to participate in elections and referendums. Supporters of the 27th canton idea, like SP spokesperson Lena Allenspach, argued that expat voices do not have the political importance they should, as their votes are simply tallied alongside voters from where they used to live, despite likely having different interests and priorities.

She added that Swiss expats should also be given the chance - through the 27th canton’s one or two seats in the Council of States and the number of seats given to them in the National Council - to appoint their own representatives with their interests at heart. The Green Liberals added in their statement that the idea would strengthen democratic participation, simply electronic voting and help create the image of an “open and interconnected Switzerland.”

New canton would be difficult to achieve, say expat organisation

The plan is not without its opponents: FDP. The Liberals spokesperson Floriane Wyss told RTS that the interests of Swiss expats should be put forward by the existing cantons. The broadcaster noted that while the FDP, the Centre Party and the Swiss People’s Party do advocate for policies designed to help expats vote - like digital voting, e-government and simplified voting - most consider a 27th canton to be a step too far.

The ASO also admitted that the creation of a new canton would be a “difficult objective to achieve” as the entry of a new canton would require a change to the constitution and a referendum. They also added that it might not make sense to lump all expats together into one voting bloc as, in the words of RTS, “there is almost nothing in common between the Swiss abroad, apart from their nationality.”

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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