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Federal Court overturns decision of Schaffhausen cantonal council

Updated at 28 Mar 2024 12:21 pm

Defeat for the conservative majority in the Schaffhausen cantonal council: the Federal Supreme Court has annulled a parliamentary resolution on transparency in political financing because it violates the rights of voters.

The decision of the Cantonal Council of November 7, 2022 will be revoked, as stated in the decision of the Federal Supreme Court published on Thursday. The decision concerned the implementation of the "Transparency Initiative" approved by Schaffhausen voters in February 2020. Voters had clearly approved the initiative, which sets relatively strict requirements for the financing of political parties and campaigns.

However, the conservative majority of the cantonal council and the government found the required regulations too complicated. The FDP submitted a motion "for transparency - but with a sense of proportion", which only wanted to formulate the constitutional article in question in very general terms. The details were to be regulated in a law.

Cantonal Council wanted to weaken instead of implement

The supporters of the original initiative then launched an "implementation initiative" to implement their original demands. However, the conservative majority declared the FDP motion to be substantial and decided to submit only this much weaker version to the voters for the time being.

The "implementation initiative" and any counter-proposal to it should only be voted on if the constitutional amendment based on the motion is rejected. The SP, the Greens and the Committee for Transparency association took the matter to the Federal Supreme Court and have now been proven right.

The supreme court ruled that the cantonal council's decision violated the right of voters to freely form their own opinions and cast their votes without distortion, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

Dilemma for voters

The Federal Supreme Court justifies this with the dilemma of voters who would prefer both the cantonal council's proposal and the "implementation initiative" to the status quo, and at the same time find the initiative better than the cantonal council's proposal.

Either they would have to vote in favor of the Cantonal Council's proposal, even though accepting the proposal would worsen the chances of the implementation initiative. Or they would have to vote against the Cantonal Council's proposal, which they would actually prefer to the status quo, so as not to worsen the chances of the implementation initiative.

At the behest of the Federal Supreme Court, the Cantonal Council must now decide on the validity of the "implementation initiative" and put it to a referendum on the constitutional amendment based on the motion as a counter-proposal.

Even though the decision on the validity or invalidity of the "implementation initiative" is formally the responsibility of the Schaffhausen Cantonal Council, the Federal Supreme Court has made it clear that it expects a declaration of validity. According to the ruling, "prima vista, there is every indication that the implementation initiative should be declared valid".

(Judgment 1C_641/2022 of February 22, 2024)

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