Sophia wants to vote

This editorial originated not from the “Swiss Review” office in Berne, but in a Tasmanian suburb about as far away from the Swiss capital as you can get. Many things look different seen from down under. Even the voting rights that Switzerland grants to its expats appear in a new light.

This privilege comes in for constant criticism in Switzerland. Should people who have never lived in the country also be allowed to vote? On our faraway Antipodean island, we have exhibit A: a young Swiss who has never been to Switzerland but still exercises her democratic right. Let’s call her Sophia. She wants to vote in her first general election this autumn. Her initial thoughts on the matter are surprising: voting can be a bit of a headache – at first she often finds the issues perplexing. But, and this is the big but, today’s Switzerland and the opportunities and challenges it currently faces are what dominate the family conversation once the all-important voting papers arrive. For Sophia, participation in political life therefore means engaging with the real Switzerland of the 21st century – not with an idea of Switzerland based on old reminiscences. By voting, she will become that little bit more Swiss and experience a closer bond with her distant homeland.

What’s wrong with that? Young Swiss Abroad like Sophia need to know that the criticism is not necessarily aimed at them, but reflects domestic considerations instead. Foreigners in Switzerland barely have any opportunities to participate in political life, even if they are well integrated – “secondos” who were born in Switzerland being a prime example. A quarter of the permanent resident population in Switzerland pays taxes but is politically disenfranchised. Many believe that this is one of the dilemmas of direct democracy, hence the enfranchised Swiss Abroad are regarded with a certain amount of suspicion. Neuchâtel and Jura have addressed this dilemma by granting cantonal voting rights to foreign citizens. Cantons in French-speaking Switzerland in particular also allow their communes to grant voting rights to foreign nationals at the local level. However, there is no national approach to dealing with the issue.Talking of elections, do you intend to vote this autumn? This edition of “Swiss Review” tells you all you need to know about getting on the electoral register.

Marc Lettau, editor-in-chief

Comments (1)
  • Urs Klauser, Sydney, Australien
    Urs Klauser, Sydney, Australien at 21.03.2019
    Something to think about. I am a Schweizer, geboren und geschult im Kanton Glarus und bin kurz nach meinem 26. Geburtstag für eine "kurze Zeit" ausgewandert. Well, this is nun bald 30 Jahre zurück. Ich bin immer noch stark mit der Schweiz verbunden und würde niemals meinen Schweizerpass abgeben. Was Ich nun über die Schweiz verstehe is "looking from the outside" rather then das tägliche Leben in der Schweiz und das ist ganz anders. Es stimmt mich aber etwas nachdenklich, when Auslandschweizer die nie in der Schweiz gelebt haben, über die Tradition und täglichen Vorhaben abstimmen wollen. Yes, Ich denke es wäre wunderbar ihre concerns and Meinungen anzuhören aber ein volles Stimmrecht, da wäre ich dagegen. In meiner Sicht um die Schweiz zu verstehen, muss man in der Schweiz gelebt haben, die Tradition verstehen und die Meinungen der Schweizer akzeptieren, sonst werden wird bald wie alle anderen Länder, die ihre unique culture abhanden kommen lassen, um Neuansiedler das Recht zu geben, nicht mit ihren Tradition to konfliktieren. Australia is not what it used to be any longer. It has become a bit everyone do what you wanna do and we just have laws which today we see from this side and tomorrow we have to accept it from the opposite side. Erinnert mich ein bisschen an die Zeit in der Schule, when unsere Lehrer left das Klassenzimmer und innerhalb weniger Minuten total caos im Raum ausbrach) I call it a ship with a broken rudder.
    In meiner Sicht die Schweiz soll so bleiben (rechtlich wie auch independent weise) wie es unsere forefathers and the laws have outlaid in 1291 and since. Being a Schweizer muss etwas besonders bleiben and we can't change laws und politic bei window shopping and bias media reports. Die Schweizer and Switzerland verdient mehr.
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