What is the SBI slogan

SBI: "An attack on the separation of powers"

By Andreas C. Müller

  • The vote will take place again on November 25th. Of all the national proposals, the self-determination initiative is the most polarizing: in addition to politics and business associations, it also mobilizes churches and NGOs.
  • While the Reformed Regional Church in Aargau takes a clear position against the self-determination initiative, the Roman Catholic Regional Church does not comment.


For once upside-down world: In the campaign to vote on the self-determination initiative, the left reaches for the visual two-handed. Trump next to Putin and Erdogan: "Switzerland is not participating" is the slogan for the poster showing the above-mentioned leaders. According to the SP message, human rights should not be scratched in Switzerland. The SP subordinates the self-determination initiative of the SVP to a behavior similar to that of the presidents of America, Russia and Turkey. In contrast, the SVP is very cautious and soberly advertises on its posters for a “yes to direct democracy”.

The new edition of the Zitterpartie "All against the SVP"

As is so often the case, the SVP is faced with a willing alliance of parties and business associations with its concerns. And once again, supporters and opponents have a heated exchange of blows using enormous resources. Economiesuisse alone had 2.2 million voting newspapers distributed, and advertisements are busily placed in the media. And the effort seems to have paid off: the latest survey commissioned by the Swiss Radio and Television SRF at the GFS Bern Institute now sees the opponents of the initiative at a clear advantage.

Business associations warn that the SVP initiative means “legal uncertainty” (the Aargau FDP Council of States Philipp Müller), the threat to “our stability and reliability” (Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga) and economic damage to Switzerland as an export nation (Heinz Karrer, President Economiesuisse).

A question of dealing with minorities

Many church organizations have also joined a no committee. For Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga absolutely understandable, because the SVP initiative raises the question of “whether we are still ready to protect the rights of the weakest” (see “reformed” No. 11, November 2018). Thomas Wallimann-Sasaki, head of the Zurich Institute for Social Ethics «ethik22», says: «It is actually a shame that the vote on the statutory monitoring of people with social insurance (editor's note: see accompanying text) is taking place in the slipstream of the voting campaign on the self-determination initiative. This proposal is directed even more strongly against the socially weak, for whom the churches should stand up ».

"No more protection for minorities"

Then, however, Thomas Wallimann-Sasaki starts talking about the self-determination initiative. The social ethicist, who also serves as president of the episcopal commission “Justitia et Pax” - the political mouthpiece of the bishops, finds clear words about this: “This is an attack on the separation of powers in a democracy. Authorities and instances are systematically denigrated. Today it is Strasbourg, tomorrow Brussels and the day after tomorrow Bern. " A dangerous development that was seen a little less than 100 years ago in Europe and that is now repeated in many countries.

What the acceptance of the initiative will mean in detail cannot yet be foreseen, said Thomas Wallimann-Sasaki. "But it is quite possible that in extreme cases the rights of minorities will be curtailed." With Swiss law taking precedence over international law, judgments by the European Court of Human Rights are no longer binding in Switzerland. Accordingly, the individual citizen no longer has an authority that is recognized as an authority for him in the event of “legal violations by the state”. What that means has so far been conclusively shown using the example of the compensation claim for asbestos victims.

"SVP with a tactical masterpiece"

However, the social ethicist regards the noticeably greater risk as the economic damage that acceptance of the initiative will entail. «It is quite possible that companies in Europe will no longer be able to sell their products so easily in the future. Or guarantees will be demanded. "

The dangerous thing from Thomas Wallimann-Sasaki's point of view: “The SVP achieved a tactical masterpiece in this election campaign. Most of the initiators broke away from the negative concept of foreign judges. Self-determination and direct democracy are cited - all terms with positive connotations. And the opponents have it much more difficult in their argumentation: To explain what it is about, to refute the arguments of the initiators, they always need several sentences. "

What Thomas Wallimann-Sasaki means by that, he explains using my example: The opponents of the initiative warn on posters that the SVP's referendum is directed against human rights. The proponents disagree. The fact is: «After the initiative has been adopted, the case law in Switzerland can only be measured against human rights to a limited extent and corrected accordingly. The difference between “compulsory” human rights and “the others” is not easy to put in a headline. » But this is almost impossible to argue on posters in the voting campaign. The opponents would have to shorten the facts and thus offer the proponents a surface to attack.

Church officials fight on social media

Religious and church representatives are meanwhile working hard in the referendum campaign and are even receiving praise from Federal Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga: "This commitment is very important," the Federal Councilor said to "reformed". In addition to the media announcements by Christian aid organizations such as Fastenopfer, HEKS and Caritas, the statements of the episcopal commission “Justitia und Pax” and numerous regional churches, personal commitment also catches the eye: For example, four former spokespersons for “Wort zum Sunday »- including Martin Kuse from Aargau - with short video contributions against the SVP's self-determination initiative. For Martin Kuse, reformed pastor in Möriken-Wildegg, the European Convention on Human Rights is “one of the greatest achievements of humanity”. He is alluding to the protection of the disadvantaged, which has grown historically and is now a broad consensus. "Your word (editor's note: what is meant is the European Convention on Human Rights) carries weight for many people in Switzerland."

The videos, which are reminiscent of the “Word for Sunday” in terms of design, were produced by the “Alliance of Civil Society”. Over a hundred organizations are mobilizing against the SVP initiative. Also present: The Episcopal National Commission “Justitia et Pax”, Caritas Switzerland, Fastenopfer, Bread for All, the Swiss Catholic Women's Association, the Swiss Protestant Church Aid HEKS, the Interreligious Working Group in Switzerland and the House of Religions in Bern.

Just this Monday, the episcopal commission “Justitia et Pax” sent a press release in which it recommended a “No to the vote on the self-determination initiative”. This curtails "the sovereign freedom of all", it says in the communication. And further: “The Swiss sovereign, in other words the majority of the electorate, should have the last word on all things. For minorities and those affected, there would be no or only limited recourse options in the event of a conflict ”.

Aargau: Reformed against it, Catholics are silent

In Aargau, the Reformed Regional Church of Aargau recommends the self-determination initiative for rejection. The Council of Churches literally says: “As was the case for the Federal Council and the majority of the National Council and Council of States, there is no question that the protection of fundamental rights under the European Convention on Human Rights must continue to apply in Switzerland. He therefore calls on those entitled to vote to pay special attention to these aspects, which are closely linked to Christian values ​​and traditions, when making decisions and to reject the self-determination initiative. " And further: The expression "foreign judges" should not be used in the discussion to defame judges on an international level.

However, no statement from the Roman Catholic Church in Aargau. Church council president Luc Humbel said: “Since this is a national vote, we are not making any recommendations or statements. We are very cautious about national votes. " Even the Aargau section of the Catholic Women's Association does not want to act too aggressively. A circular mail is planned to the members, so the Aargau branch manager Merice Rüfenacht opposite Horizonte. In this reference is made to the position of the Swiss Catholic Women's Association, but the main aim is to simply ask women to vote, according to Merice Rüfenacht.

"Regional churches have become public players"

When asked about the differently pointed attitudes of regional church representatives and cantonal volunteer organizations - especially the reluctance in Aargau - social ethicist Thomas Wallimann-Sasaki says: “This is the federalist system. You have to live with these differences. You belong to us. " The differently pronounced attitudes may also indicate tensions within the governing bodies, because the entire social spectrum from right to left is represented within the church. Especially in rural cantons such as Aargau, the SVP enjoys a lot of support, which also has an impact on the social structure of the church.

The fact that the question of what position the regional churches take on political votes is increasingly being asked, however, shows that in Switzerland the state church law bodies have increasingly become public players. According to Thomas Wallimann-Sasaki, the reluctance to make recommendations may also indicate that the governing bodies of individual regional churches have not given enough thought to this new role.



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