Swiss public narrowly backs spending on new fighter jets in referendum

A black fighter jet drawing with the word "Nein!" ("No!") written across it

In late September, members of the public in Switzerland took part in a referendum in which they were asked whether the state should commit to spending CHF6bn (US$6.49bn) on a fleet of new fighter jets. The spending plan was passed by just 9,000 votes, or 50.1% of the three million voters who took part.

In response to the result, the referendum committee said "The result shows that the public's skepticism towards this billion-dollar blank check extends far beyond the left-wing camp. That is why the referendum committee sees the result of the vote as a success... almost 50% seem to be of the opinion that Switzerland would be able to manage without high-performance fighter jets."

The government will now move ahead with replacing the army’s fleet of F-5 Tigers and F/A-18 jets, which it aims to do by 2030. The finance package the Swiss public were voting on also includes a ground-based air defence system, valued at US$2bn.

WRI’s affiliate in Switzerland, Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee (Group for Switzerland without an Army) led the official opposition campaign and has announced it will continue to campaign against the plans, and said that despite the narrow victory the result didn’t mean the armed forces had a “free pass”. GSOA also highlighted the massive propaganda campaign launched by the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport – of which the Federal Office for Defence Procurement is affiliated - in support of the “yes” vote, and said that they didn’t fulfil their duties to provide the population with factual information throughout the campaign.

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