Swiss reject naturalization by secret ballot
Voters rejected a proposal Sunday by the
right-wing Swiss People's Party to allow citizens the final say over who might
have a Swiss passport.
More than 63 per cent of voters and all but one of the country's 26 cantons voted against bringing back the secret ballot to decide naturalization applications.
Voters also threw out plans to reform the health insurance system and measures to limit the government's information policy.
French-speaking regions were particularly opposed to a return to the secret ballot, with up to 80 per cent of "no" votes.
The courts outlawed the process five years ago following a number of controversial decisions which saw a vast majority of citizens of Balkan origin refused Swiss nationality in one commune.
The right-wing People's Party (SVP/UDC) was behind the initiative to overturn the ruling, saying it was up to the communes to decide how to deal with immigrants not the federal court.
They also wanted to ban the right to appeal by those rejected for citizenship.
However the government and three out of the four main political parties said the ballot box procedure would be discriminatory.
They favoured current measures of deciding by the canton executive, or elected panels, some with a public right of veto at commune level.
The SVP/UDC said afterwards the people had decided against the democratic path but the government disagreed.
"Voters have demonstrated that they are attached to direct democracy but also to fundamental rights and they don't want the two to clash," Swiss President Pascal Couchepin said on Swiss radio.
Swiss naturalization is already among the toughest in Europe. Applicants have to be resident for 12 years before being eligible to apply compared with between four and 10 years elsewhere.
Around 20 per cent of the population is made up of foreigners.
In 2007, 45,042 applications were accepted, the highest number for 25 years, but critics say the rate of acceptance is still lower than other European countries.
It is 2.4 per cent compared with 4.1 per cent in the Netherlands, 4.9 per cent in France and 8.2 per cent in Sweden, dpa reported.