Swiss Socialists Want Public Vote on Fighter Jet Deal

Swiss socialists want to hold a referendum on the government's 3.1 billion franc (2.5 billion euro) purchase of a new fighter jet fleet if the deal affects spending elsewhere, it was reported on Saturday. The Federal Council revealed on Wednesday its proposal to buy 22 Swedish-made Gripen planes to replace its ageing F5 fighters. Socialists fear the deal will mean a rise in military spending that could translate into budget restrictions in other departments, notably education, transport and agriculture. Meeting in Lucerne on Saturday, party members unanimously passed a resolution on the matter after a document outlining the group's position was approved in October, ATS news agency reported. The party rejects the prospect of a spending rise all the more because there was no public vote on the plane deal, described as a "scandal" by National Council (parliament) member Eric Voruz. It will launch a referendum if parliament seeks a legal base to justify budgetary restrictions or requests a rise in military spending to cover the acquisition. If such a referendum does not halt the deal the socialists will call for a moratorium on the purchase until 2025. The Gripen deal will be put to parliament as part of the government's 2012 arms programme. Parliamentary decisions can be put to a public vote in Switzerland if a sufficient number of votes are collected. (c) 2011 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Dec 3, 2011