Swiss Court Overturns Referendum

The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland [Wikimedia Commons].

The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland [Wikimedia Commons].

In a historic move, a Swiss court overturned a nationwide referendum on April 10, the BBC reported. The court ruled that the government had given voters insufficient information, requiring a revote for the first time in Switzerland’s modern history, according to the Guardian. A lack of transparency threatened the freedom of the vote, the court stated, thus justifying a revote.

The February 2016 referendum, proposed by the Christian Democratic party (CVP), asked voters whether married couples and cohabiting partners should pay the same tax. The vote saw a 50.8 percent against with 49.2 percent in favor, according to the BBC. The CVP argued that Switzerland taxes cohabiting partners separately, allowing both to benefit from a tax-free allowance, and penalizes married couples, the Independent reported.

The federal court stated, “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,” reported the Independent. During the referendum, the government told voters that 80,000 married couples paid higher taxes than cohabiting couples when in reality, 450,000 married couples pay higher taxes. According to the federal court, voters “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,” according to the Guardian.

The CDC welcomed the result as a “boost for the political rights of Swiss voters.” Detractors, however, argue that it undermines Switzerland’s political system and creates a precedent for future appeals against referendums, the BBC reported.