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11th Apr 2019

Switzerland overturns national referendum on basis voters were poorly informed

Kyle Picknell

Switzerland has overturned a national referendum due to ‘incomplete detail’ and ‘lack of transparency’

A country that isn’t Britain, as in, the country is Switzerland, unfortunately, has overturned a national referendum because its voters were poorly informed.

Its the first time in the country’s modern history that Switzerland has overturned a national referendum, of some 300 that have taken place since 1848, but the nation’s supreme court found that the information given to voters was insufficient.

The court found that incomplete detail and a lack of transparency had violated the freedom of the vote, which could now potentially be re-run a second time.

“Given the tight outcome of the vote and the seriousness of the irregularities, it is possible that the result of the ballot would have been different,” the federal court said.

The vote in question, on whether Switzerland’s tax policy unfairly penalises married couples (who are taxed jointly on their combined incomes and can therefore end up paying more), was narrowly rejected by 50.8% to 49.2%.

The Christian Democratic party, which had proposed the vote in February 2016, lodged an appeal against the result last year, believing that voters had been misled – which has since been proved after investigation.

In information provided to voters before the referendum, the federal government said that 80,000 married couples were penalised by the tax regime. It has since revised the figure, stating that 454,000 couples were affected.

The Swiss Supreme Court ruled that voters had been “informed erroneously and in an incomplete way. They could not imagine that the number of couples affected by the married couples’ tax penalty was more than five times higher than the figure announced.”

Now, I wonder if there is a parallel to be drawn between this and the current situation with Brexit? Hmm. I don’t know actually. It’s difficult to think of a single instance in which a statistical figure was manipulated in order to influence the public vote. I’m really struggling.