The ‘naysayers’ (if I may translate loosely the German expression ‘Neinsager’ which the French-speaking Swiss are so keen to use to describe their counterparts on the other side of the country) have had it their way again (but this time on both sides of the Röstigraben, the imaginary border dividing the French-speaking Swiss from their German-speaking counterparts as based on a dish of grated potatoes) as the Swiss people voted this morning (or earlier if they had done so by putting their voter’s slip in the mail) overwhelmingly against the three initiatives that they had been called to vote on. In a nutshell, the first proposed to abolish the lump sum tax privilege for wealthy foreigners; the second to cap population growth through immigration to 0.2% annually so as to preserve Switzerland’s natural resources; as for the third, it proposed to force the country’s national bank to increase its gold reserves to 20% of the assets it holds and to maintain them at that level thereafter.
The results of today’s nationwide vote on these three proposals were predictable given that the country’s political parties, the Swiss government as well as the Swiss media had all (with only a few exceptions here and there) recommended that the Swiss people reject all three initiatives.
I am not going to comment on the results or even on the relatively low turnout rate (49.4%). Rather I am going to describe what I did after I had dropped my envelope in the ballot box. Instead of heading back up home, I decided to go to town to take pictures of some of the electoral posters that were used during the campaign. Just like outdoor advertising, political propaganda posters must use simple messages (usually a combination of text and image) to grab a passer-by’s attention and convince her/him of the validity of a particular political point of view.
Strangely, I did not come across any posters issued by political parties, probably because the initiatives had come from associations of like-minded people as opposed to mainstream political parties. One such association is Swiss Respect, which, according to its website, ‘works to protect Swiss interests from attacks on our legal and economic system by “partners” seeking to destabilise us’ (of course, ‘our’ and ‘us’ refer to the Swiss people).
Playing on the national colours (red and white) and using some rather crude imagery (a Wilhelm Tell with what seems to be his own arrow stuck in his head, thus indicating suicide, a piggy bank smashed in two, factory workers being eliminated and a huge golden ball about to smash the Swiss national bank) for the visual part and using slogans such as ‘The end of Switzerland’s prosperity: who is going to have to pay?’, ‘Taxes will rise for everybody: who is going to have to pay?’, ‘25,000 jobs to be lost: who is going to have to pay?’ and ‘Weakening the national bank? Initiative on gold. No!’, these posters use a simple but time-proven political strategy: instilling the fear that any change to the status quo will prove extremely harmful to one’s purse/wallet.
The only poster in favour of any of the three initiatives I saw during my two hour plus walk from the ballot station at Chailly to Lausanne’s railway station via parts of the Old Town, namely one that backed the so-called ‘Save our Swiss gold’ initiative, was hardly any more sophisticated…
The only poster on the highly controversial initiative against population growth, the so-called ‘Ecopop’ initiative, I spotted was also quite crude. I was a little disappointed that I did not manage to find a poster in favour of the initiative displayed in the streets of Lausanne.
So here is a screenshot of the top part of the website of the ‘Ecopop’ backers. A Switzerland turned into Singapore, hardly any better, I must say.
Fortunately, I did come across some more interesting posters during my stroll. In fact, I was surprised at the number and the quality of the posters advertising cultural events.
I also saw a poster for a running event a friend is urging me to take part in, Lausanne’s Christmas Midnight Run.
I came across several pieces of feminist graffiti, which were a welcome change from the sexism of most commercial ads that populate our streets. However, if only they had used chalk instead of paint, this would have been more civic.
When I passed near the street where Catherine Kousmine, a famous nutritionist of Russian origins, had lived, I decided to make a detour to be able to take a picture of the plaque commemorating her name and achievements displayed at the very address where she had lived from 1934 to 1961.
A little later on, I walked to the cathedral but I did not go inside as a religious ceremony was being held there. The cathedral of Lausanne (which was completed in 1275) is without doubt the most beautiful in Switzerland and, whenever I can do so, I like to go inside this superb Gothic monument and enjoy the spirituality which the place is infused in.
At place Bel-Air, I decided to snap a picture of the display of lanterns put up as part of the Christmas decorations in Lausanne. Maybe I should have taken a picture of the many wooden huts that stand at place Saint-François and elsewhere for the festive season.
As I did not see many posters in the railway station, I decided to take a ride back home on the métro (armed with the weekend edition of a famous UK business newspaper). As I stepped out of the station near home, I noticed this small poster displayed in front of a newspaper box. ‘No, no, no!’, I said to myself, ‘it is not with such headlines that I am going to buy your paper’ and I could not help but conclude that political poster propagandists are not the only ones who might gain from thinking a little out of the box.
Articles commenting the results on the Swiss press agency’s website (Swissinfo)
- Voters retain tax perks for rich foreigners, by Matthew Allen, Swissinfo, 30 Nov 2014
- Strict immigration curbs overwhelmingly rejected, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 30 Nov 2014
- Voters roundly reject Swiss gold initiative, by Clare O’Dea , Swissinfo, 30 Nov 2014
Previous articles on the initiative to abolish tax privileges for wealthy foreign residents
- Rich foreigner tax perks tipped to stay, by Matthew Allen, Swissinfo, 20 Nov 2014
- What does lump sum taxation really offer Switzerland?, by Samuel Jaberg, Swissinfo, 17 Nov 2014
- Why Switzerland should keep lump sum taxation, by Pascal Broulis [Opinion], Swissinfo, 10 Nov 2014
- No more tax privileges for millionaires, by Rudolf Strahm [Opinion], Swissinfo, 10 Nov 2014
- The international sport of seducing rich expats, by Samuel Jaberg, Swissinfo, 5 Nov 2014
- Ecclestone says he pays Swiss taxes voluntarily, Swissinfo, 30 Oct 2014
- Lump sum tax splits political centre, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 24 Oct 2014
- Tax breaks for rich foreigners under fire, Swissinfo, 19 Oct 2014
- Cantons weigh up value of lump sum tax, by Matthew Allen, Swissinfo, 6 Oct 2014
- A paradise for the rich, Swissinfo, 6 Oct 2014
- Alpine tax haven fears for its survival, by Samuel Jaberg in Lens, Swissinfo, 19 Feb 2014
- Cantons weigh up value of lump sum tax, by Matthew Allen, Swissinfo, 6 Oct 2014
- Swiss to vote on scrapping lump sum tax, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 19 Oct 2012
- Wealthy foreigners face higher tax bills, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 23 Sep 2012
- Cantons battle to save rich tax, by Matthew Allen, Swissinfo, 18 May 2011
- Lump-sum taxpayer numbers continue to grow, Swissinfo and agencies, 14 Jun 2011
- Lump-sum taxation comes under the spotlight, by Matthew Allen, 3 Jan 2011
On the initiative to curb population growth through immigration
- Population control vote remains open, just, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 19 Nov 2014
- Freeze on immigration: path from or to disaster?, by Peter Siegenthaler, Swissinfo, 16 Nov 2014
- Ecopop supporter defends initiative’s stance, by Peter Siegenthaler, Swissinfo, 12 Nov 2014
- Ecopop campaign takes to the streets, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 6 Nov 2014
- Why the ‘overforeignisation’ debate continues, by Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Fribourg, Swissinfo,
6 Nov 2014
- Overpopulation vote stirs debate on root cause, by Anand Chandrasekhar, Swissinfo, 30 Oct 2014
- Immigration caps to reduce ecological footprint, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 10 Oct 2014
- Nature concerns drive anti-immigration plan, by Peter Siegenthaler, Swissinfo, 19 Mar 2014
- Federal Council rejects Ecopop initiative, press release, the Federal Council, 23 Oct 2013
- Population control on the Swiss agenda, by Frederic Burnand, Swissinfo, 31 Dec 2012
On the initiative to boost the gold reserves of the Swiss national bank (‘Save our Swiss gold’)
- Financial eyes on Switzerland ahead of gold vote, by Clare O’Dea, Swissinfo, 18 Nov 2014
- The Swiss franc: global reserve or gourmet currency?, by Anna Kaledin, Swissinfo, 8 Nov 2014
- Swiss love affair with gold could heat up again, by Armando Mombelli, Swissinfo, 7 Nov 2014
- SNB head: Gold initiative ‘fatal’ for Switzerland, Swissinfo, 6 Nov 2014
- Tighter grip needed on Switzerland’s gold?, by Armando Mombelli, Swissinfo, 16 Oct 2014
- Swiss fight to block public gold vote, by Delphine Strauss, Financial Times [reproduced on Swissinfo], 15 Oct 2014
- Swiss to vote on central bank gold reserves, by Urs Geiser, Swissinfo, 20 Mar 2013
Other entries on previous nationwide votes on this blog