The all-male Swiss electorate began voting in earnest today(Saturday) on the controversial proposal to reduce the foreign population of the country by one third from their present total of nearly a million.
GV PAN traffic to construction site in Geneva
GV PAN across blocks of flats (3 shots)
TV & SV Buildings under construction (2 shots)
MV Construction workers (2 shots)
MV Ditto seated in canteen for meal (3 shots)
MV Placards (7 shots)
MV People enter hall to vote(2 shots)
MV Officials hand out ballot papers
MV Voter enters booth
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CU Ballot box
MV Voters drop completed forms into box
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Background: The all-male Swiss electorate began voting in earnest today(Saturday) on the controversial proposal to reduce the foreign population of the country by one third from their present total of nearly a million.
It's Switzerland's most controversial referendum for many years and a high poll is expected.
The proposal - known as the Schwarzenbach Campaign - came from Independent Member of Parliament James Schwarzenbach. His initiative, which was backed by 70,000 supporting signatures, aims to preventing the sacrifice of Switzerland's national identity against the insatiable foreign labour demands of the country's booming industry.
The whole Swiss establishment - trade unions, industry, Churches, press and all the major political parties - is against the proposal on the grounds that it could bring economic and social disaster. Herr Schwarzenbach, however, has attracted considerable support, and the result is expected to be close.
If the proposal became law, the country would loss about 220,000 badly needed workers - mostly Italian, but also including Spanish, Austrian, French, West German and Yugoslavian manpower.
Earlier this year, the Swiss Government tightened the 1965 immigration controls, but the Schwarzenbach initiative would fix more rigid limits. It provides for the reduction of the number of foreigners in each canton(province) to ten per cent of its population by 1974.
A high percentage of the immigrant workers are engaged in construction and other labouring jobs, and whether or not the proposal is accepted observers believe that many may leave the country of their own accord, causing serious labour shortages and factory closures.
The result of the referendum will reflect the extent to which the Swiss uphold the country's traditional reputation for tolerance, racial and linguistic harmony and hospitality to the foreigner.