The Mass Voll board collected signatures for the referendum in Davos (from left): Nicolas Rimoldi, Michael Straumann and Naomi Tambasco.
Peter AeschlimannFederal house editor Sunday view
They still exist, the friends of the constitution. But the Covid measures critics are counted. Since autumn, its board has consisted of only three members – according to the statutes, there should be at least five.
Thus, the friends of the constitution are unable to act, no new projects may be launched before the general meeting in May. However, there can be no question of signs of dissolution, says co-president Roland Bühlmann: “We are still here, we are not running out of work.”
The club made the decision to go into battle against the Covid law for a third time last August. After Parliament approved the extension of individual measures to combat the pandemic until the end of 2024, the friends of the constitution started the referendum.
If it comes about, those entitled to vote will probably vote at the ballot box in June on a proposal that has been in force since January 1st. For Nicolas Rimoldi, the co-president of the referendum committee, this is a “democratic scandal”.
The counter is currently at 4374 signatures. It must be 50,000 in around two months. In the summer of 2021, at the second referendum, 190,000 signatures came together in just three weeks. It’s getting tougher this time. No wonder: Corona is no longer one of the five most important fears in the CS worry barometer, masks have become a slow seller, million doses for the booster vaccination have to be destroyed due to a lack of demand, while memories of the lockdown are gradually fading.
However, one reason for the false start is homemade. The Friends of the Constitution printed 100,000 sheets of signatures with the address “No measures, 3000 Bern”. A club address that, according to Post spokesman Stefan Dauner, simply does not exist. The association had deposited the address “Friends of the Constitution, 3000 Berne” on September 6, 2022. Dauner: “The postal workers didn’t know where to send these sheets.” According to Nicolas Rimoldi, hundreds of arches were lost in this way.
Constitutional friend Roland Bühlmann speaks of an “annoying misunderstanding”. He had made several appearances in this matter at the post office, at the counter or by telephone. First there were promises, then refusals. Despite the “cabaret” with the post, Bühlmann is confident that he will be able to present the 50,000 signatures in good time. “The sword of Damocles of the Covid certificate still hangs over society.”
Campaign professional Daniel Graf considers it very likely that the Swiss will vote on Covid measures for a third time: “You shouldn’t prematurely write off the friends of the constitution.” The association probably has more than 100,000 postal addresses and has the wherewithal to carry out the national postal service and – if things get tight – to send out paid signature collectors. Experience has shown that it is difficult to start a referendum during the Christmas and New Year period. “I do not rule out that the campaign will only really start in the next few weeks.”
Does it work the third time?
Whether the Friends of the Constitution will be successful at the ballot box at the third attempt is a completely different question. “Many people are simply done with the topic,” says political scientist Cloé Jans from the GFS research institute. “After two lost votes, you could also say: That’s enough now.” The Swiss are much more concerned with the future of energy.
For a short time it looked as if groups like Mass-Voll or the Friends of the Constitution could shake up the party system, says Jans. “Today we know: nothing will come of it.”