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The “Fifth Switzerland” makes clear political demands

18.09.2019 – Marc Lettau

The “Parliament of the Fifth Switzerland”, the Council of the Swiss Abroad, demands more leadership from the Federal Council on e-voting, and underlines the importance of the framework agreement for the 458,000 Swiss living in the EU.

There will be no e-voting option available to the “Fifth Switzerland” for the 2019 federal elections. The Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA) views this as a major setback. The CSA therefore demanded more leadership from the Federal Council in regard to e-voting at its meeting during the Congress of the Swiss Abroad in Montreux.

In a resolution drafted in Montreux, the CSA specifically calls on the Federal Council to ensure that there is a trustworthy, financially viable system in place for e-voting. Moreover, this system must be available to all voters of the “Fifth Switzerland” by no later than the 2023 federal elections. While in Montreux, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis promised only what had already been announced by the Federal Council in June: to reframe the e-voting trial phase by the end of 2020.

The e-voting setback is also hindering the reforms of the CSA. It is highly unlikely that it will be able to implement its goal of introducing the direct election of its members without the electronic voting channel. The reform was thus postponed in Montreux. OSA President Remo Gysin had the following to say on the matter: “We’re delaying something that we’d like to have sorted.”

Framework agreement – a loaded term

The term e-voting is not the only one causing unease for the CSA. It is also nervous about Switzerland’s framework agreement with the European Union (EU). The CSA has assessed the development in the relationship between Switzerland and the EU as “worrying”. It is demanding that the Federal Council consider the concerns of the 458,000 Swiss living in the EU during further clarifications of the framework agreement. The CSA’s content-based position has not changed in this regard: it supports the free movement of persons, and wants it to be regulated.

Finally, the election manifesto approved by the CSA contains further political demands. Besides the core demand to make it easier rather than more difficult for the “Fifth Switzerland” to exercise their political rights, it also refers once again to the discrimination shown by the Swiss banks against Swiss people abroad. Talking of the 2019 elections: Montreux was also the place where the political parties competed for the votes of the “Fifth Switzerland”. Their performance during the last legislative term was the subject of heated debate: according to an analysis by swissinfo, the concerns of the “Fifth Switzerland” were best supported by the SP and least supported by the SVP.

“What will tomorrow’s world hold?” – this was the topic of this year’s Congress of the Swiss Abroad. Remo Gysin introduced the numerous expert lectures on the topic with the following remark: “There are points of no return all over the world.” His conclusion: “We have a clear duty to act.”

Elections 2019 | Candidates of the “Fifth Switzerland”