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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Switzerland's marathon vote
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC correspondent in Bern

In Switzerland, citizens have completed a marathon round of voting on a series of nine different national initiatives as well as numerous local ballots.

The votes ranged from proposals to abolish nuclear power, to granting equal rights to the disabled, to cutting back the Swiss army.

Bern, Switzerland
Once more to the polls in the Swiss capital

But the sheer number of proposals on the ballot papers seems to have led to confusion among many voters about what exactly they were voting for.

Opinion polls in advance of Sunday's marathon vote revealed that two-thirds of Swiss voters were unable to list the many proposals they were being asked to decide on.

But fears that having nine national initiatives on the ballot paper would put voters off proved unfounded.

Following guidance

The turnout, at around 50%, was actually higher than in many previous votes. But the pattern of voting was rather predictable.

In advance of any ballot, the Swiss government advises the electorate on which way to vote.

This time, the message was seven "No" and two "Yes" votes, and this is exactly what happened.

So the people's initiatives to abolish nuclear power, to grant equal rights to the disabled and to introduce four car-free Sundays a year have all been rejected, while the two government bills - one to cut back the army, the other to reform civil protection - have been approved.

The suspicion is that over-burdened voters simply followed the government's line rather than examining each issue individually.

But despite the predictability of Sunday's votes, the results will lead to the end of two long-standing institutions: the cutbacks in the army mean the end of Switzerland's famous combat bicycle brigade, and the change in civil protection means no more obligatory nuclear shelters in every Swiss home.


SEE ALSO:
Swiss vote for more votes
10 Feb 03  |  Europe
Timeline: Switzerland
07 Mar 03  |  Country profiles


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