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Cablegate: Swiss to Vote November 29 On Whether to Support

VZCZCXRO0275
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHSW #0507 3291735
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251735Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BERN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6194
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BERN 000507

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/CE (Y.SAINT-ANDRE), EUR/PGI (I.WEINTSTEIN) AND
DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM SZ
SUBJECT: SWISS TO VOTE NOVEMBER 29 ON WHETHER TO SUPPORT
"PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE" TO BAN MINARETS

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 29, Swiss citizens will vote
nationwide on whether to support a "people's initiative"
calling for a ban on the construction of minarets in
Switzerland. The initiative was launched by members of
rightwing parties. The initiators of the proposal contend
that minarets symbolize a political claim to power that
challenges the Swiss federal constitution and the system of
law. The Federal Council (Executive Cabinet) and Parliament
have taken clear public positions recommending that Swiss
voters reject the initiative as contrary to Swiss law and
human rights obligations. Swiss political parties from the
left to the center-right, as well as Switzerland's main
churches, business federations and human rights experts all
reject the initiative. According to a survey carried out by
a leading research and polling institute in mid-November, 53
percent of the respondents rejected the intiative; 10 percent
were undecided. Most observers believe the intiative will
not pass, but the outcome is likely to be close. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On November 29, Swiss citizens will vote nationwide
on whether to support a "people's initiative" calling for a
ban on the construction of minarets in Switzerland. The
initiative was launched by members of the ultra-conservative
Federal Democratic Union (EDU) and rightwing Swiss People's
Party (SVP). Both the EDU and SVP subsequently endorsed the
initiative, after the necessary 100,000 validated signatures
were collected to force a nationwide vote. The initiators of
the proposal contend that minarets symbolize a political
claim to power that challenges the Swiss federal constitution
and the system of law. Critics counter that the initiative
is only a proxy for the initiators' anti-immigration agenda.

3. (SBU) The Federal Council (Executive Cabinet) and
Parliament have taken clear public positions recommending
that Swiss voters reject the initiative as contrary to Swiss
law and human rights obligations. Swiss political parties
from the left to the center-right, as well as Switzerland's
main churches, business federations and human rigthts experts
all reject the initiative.

4. (SBU) There are approximately 160 mosques and cultural
centers throughout the country, four of which have minarets.
There are approximately 350,000 persons of Muslim faith
living in Switzerland, constituting the second largest
religious community in the country. Most Muslims in
Switzerland are from Turkey or the former Yugoslavia.

5. (SBU) According to a survey carried out by a leading
research and polling institute in Switzerland in
mid-November, 53 percent of the respondents rejected the
intiative; 10 percent were undecided. For the initiative to
be adopted, both a majority of the electorate and a majority
of the cantons (states) would have to approve it. Most
observers believe the intiative will not pass, but hedge
their comments, saying that the outcome is likely to be close.
BEYER

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