Voters in Switzerland will head to the polls on Sunday to decide whether the Alpine nation should continue with its military draft or rely solely on volunteers to man its military forces.
A recent survey conducted by the Swiss market research firm GFS.bern for SRG SSR, the Swiss public broadcasting company, indicated that 63 percent of voters are opposed to the initiative that would eliminate mandatory universal militia service, 31 percent are in favor of it, and six percent are undecided. The survey was conducted from August 30 to September 7 among 1,406 people.
“The armed forces are like a fire brigade,” said Philippe Hertig, an executive-search consultant at Egon Zehnder in Zurich, identified in a Bloomberg report as a captain in the Swiss air force. “You never know if it will be used but without it, you don’t feel secure.”
Bloomberg reported that Swiss voters rejected attempts to abolish their draft in 1989 and 2001.
Sunday’s vote is the result of a campaign launched by the pacifist Group for Switzerland without an Army (GSOA) which collected the 100,000 signatures within an 18-month period needed to force a constitutional initiative. Under Swiss law, in order to pass an issue must be approved by a majority of voters and a majority of cantons — the Swiss equivalent of states.
A Reuters report noted that most Swiss regard military service not only as essential to preserve their freedom and independence, but also as an important character-building experience. Those who serve in Switzerland’s military, especially those who become officers, learn leadership skills and make connections that serve them well in the business world.
“The Swiss army offers the best practical leadership training in Switzerland,” Lieutenant General Andre Blattmann, identified by Reuters as Chief of the Swiss Armed Forces, told a news conference in Bern in August.
Reuters also cited Josef Ackermann, the former Deutsche Bank CEO and former chairman of Zurich Insurance Group, who once said in an interview that military service was better preparation for crises and competition than any business school.
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Photo: flag of Switzerland