Geneva, Switzerland: Areferendumin Switzerland’s northeastern St. Gallen region Sunday isexpected to usher in a”burqa ban”, making it thesecond Swisscanton to
prohibitallface-covering garments in publicspaces.
At thesametime, votersacross Switzerland are being asked to cast their ballots on initiativesaimed at boosting localfarming and promoting
“ethicalstandards”in food production, including turning a moratoriumon geneticallymodified crops into afull-out ban.
St. Gallen isexpected to followtheexample ofthesouthern canton ofTicino, wherealawwas introduced two yearsago thatappeared to be
aimed at burqasand other Muslimveils.
St. Gallen lawmakers latelast yearadopted atext which stipulated that”any personwho renders themselves unrecognisable by covering their face
in a publicspace,and thusendangers publicsecurity or socialand religious peace will befined.”
Thelawpassed theregional parliament with support fromthe populist rightand centre parties.
Nowtheissue goes up for publicapprovalSunday after the Green Party and Young Socialists demanded areferendum.
Switzerland’s government last year opposed an initiativeaimed atcreating a nationwide burqa ban, saying itshould be up to theregions to
Votersacross Switzerland are howeverexpected to becalled to vote on theissue next yearafter the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party
gathered the 100,000 signatures needed to putany subject to areferendumas part ofSwitzerland’s famous direct democraticsystem.
– GMO ban? –
At the nationallevel, the Swiss will vote Sunday on two schemes linked to agricultureand food security, urging ashift towards moreethicaland
environmentally friendly food production,as wellas protection for Swiss farmersagainstcheap food imports.
The”Fair Food”and “Food Sovereignty”initiativesappear set to failand are opposed by the government, whichwarns they could send prices
skyrocketing and might violate Switzerland’s internationaltrade obligations.
The”Food Sovereignty”initiative, which has the backing ofSwitzerland’s powerfulfarmers’ union,calls forarange ofmeasures, including turning a
moratoriumon geneticallymodified organisms (GMO) into atotal ban.
Polls indicate people widely oppose GMO usein thecountry, but despiteearly signs ofsupport, theinitiativelooks doomed to fail,according to a
survey published this month by the Tamedia group.
Observers put theinitiative’s shrinking popularity down to anotherelement baked into thetext — thecallfor imports to belimited to food produced
under thesamesocialand environmental normsas thoseapplicablein Switzerland.
Opponents oftheinitiative warn thiscould cause price hikesand limitconsumerchoice.
Voting stations open at different timesacross Switzerland, but willallclose by noon (1000 GMT).
Most Swiss voters meanwhilecast their ballots by post in the weeks leading up to referenda,and near-finalresults usually land within afewhours
oftheclosing ofthe polls.