Swiss voters are asked to vote on a wide range of matters. On the 27 of September 2020, one of the questions voters face is whether the federal government should spend CHF 6 billion buying a new fleet of military jets.
Switzerland is a neutral nation with a military dedicated to self defence that uses fighter jets to monitor, protect and defend its airspace. And while it sometimes works in partnership with NATO it is not a member,
Switzerland’s current jet fighters are ageing and approaching obsolescence. They are due to be taken out of service by around 2030.
Switzerland’s Federal Council and Parliament believe fighter jets will continue to be needed in the future in order to protect the Swiss population against aerial threats.
The government’s purchase plan is structured so that much of the money would be spent in Switzerland. The aircraft manufacturer that is awarded the contract must award contracts to Swiss companies worth at least 60% of the purchase price and these contracts are to be spread across all of Switzerland’s linguistic regions.
However, as sometimes happens in Switzerland, public resistance can lead to votes against federal government plans. Those behind this vote argue that the purchase is unnecessary and wasteful of public money. They would prefer to see the money spent on health, protection against natural disasters and climate change.
A majority of the Federal Council, Switzerland’s executive branch, parliament (123 yes, 68 no, 5 abstentions), and the Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house (33 yes, 10 no, 1 abstentions) are in favour of the purchase.
Recent polls published by RTS show a majority (58%) in favour of the plan. Political party support for the vote is mixed. PDC, PLR and UDC voters are largely in favour of the purchase, while Greens, Socialists and unaffiliated voters are largely against it.
Fighter jets have been a hot political topic for a long time in Switzerland. In the 1950s, Switzerland tried to develop its own fighter jet, but investment dried up and the project fizzled. Then in the 1960s the government decided to build French Mirage jets under licence in Switzerland, a project that went way over budget and was scaled back. These were followed by a fleet of Tiger F-5 jets in the 70s and F/A-18 Hornets in the 90s. In 2014, the purchase of Swedish Saab Gripen jets was put to a referendum and failed to pass with 53.4% of voters rejecting it.
If a majority of voters say yes to the current plan, the Federal Council will decide on the type and number of aircraft and submit its decision to Parliament for approval.