Tuesday, May 18

Swiss voters narrowly back controversial ‘burqa ban’

Official results showed that 51.21 percent of voters and a majority of Swiss federal cantons supported the proposal.

Some 1,426,992 voters were in favor of the ban, while 1,359,621 were against it, with a 50.8 percent turnout.

The so-called anti-burqa vote comes after years of debate in Switzerland following similar bans in other European countries, and in some Muslim-majority states, despite the fact that women in full Islamic veils are an exceptionally rare sight on Swiss streets. .

Despite the fact that the proposal “Yes to the prohibition of completely covering the face” did not mention the burqa or the niqab, which leaves only the eyes uncovered, there were no doubts about the subject of the debate.

Campaign Posters Saying “Stop Radical Islam!” and “Stop Extremism!” featuring a woman in a black niqab, have spread through Swiss cities.

Rival posters said: “No to an absurd, useless and Islamophobic ‘anti-burqa’ law.”

The ban would mean that no one would be able to fully cover their face in public, whether in stores or out in the open.

But there would be exceptions, even for places of worship or for health and safety reasons.

The vote came at a time when masks are mandatory in stores and on public transportation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government opposed the ban

The Yes vote runs the risk of “trivializing the xenophobic and racist atmosphere” towards Muslim women, Meriam Mastour, of the feminist group Purple Headscarves, told RTS broadcaster.

Very few women wear the full veil in Switzerland, he emphasized, and those who do tend to be converts and tourists.

A 2019 Federal Statistical Office survey found that 5.5 percent of the Swiss population were Muslims, mostly with roots in the former Yugoslavia.

“It is a great relief,” said Mohamed Hamdaoui, a regional lawmaker in the canton of Bern and founder of the “A Face Discovered” campaign.

He called the vote “the opportunity to say stop Islam” and not “Muslims, who obviously have their place in this country.”

Within Europe, neighbors Switzerland, France and Austria have banned full-face covers, as have Belgium, Bulgaria and Denmark.

Several other European countries have bans for particular contexts, such as schools and universities.

The Swiss government and parliament opposed a national ban.

His counterproposal, which would have been triggered automatically if the initiative was rejected, would have required people to show their faces to authorities if necessary for identification, such as at borders.

Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, any issue can be put to a national vote as long as it gathers 100,000 signatures in the wealthy country of 8.6 million people.

These votes take place every three months.

A 2009 vote banning the construction of minaret towers in mosques sparked anger abroad.

Indonesia trade, electronic identification votes

Two more votes were held on Sunday.

A free trade agreement reached between Switzerland and Indonesia, put to a vote after opponents criticized Berne’s move to lower import tariffs on palm oil, narrowly won approval with 51.7 percent support. .

Tariffs will be phased out on almost all of Switzerland’s largest exports to the world’s fourth most populous country, while Switzerland will remove tariffs on Indonesian industrial products.

A government plan to introduce a federally recognized electronic identity that could be used to order goods and services online was rejected with 64.36 percent of the vote.

It was put to a popular vote by critics alarmed by the plan to rely on private companies for electronic identifications, giving them access to confidential and private information.


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