A major reform of Switzerland’s corporate tax system stands a good chance of winning approval by voters next month.
Supporters have a 15% lead over opponents led by the political left, according to an opinion poll published on Friday by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – swissinfo.ch’s parent company.
Another 15% of respondents in the poll, carried out by the leading GfS Bern research institute, said they were still undecided, a little more than five weeks before voting day.
The reform seeks to put the Swiss corporate tax system in line with the norms of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, harmonising fiscal rates for foreign and domestic firms. It will also include new tax breaks on research and development carried out by companies.
Supporters say the amendment to the law will help attract even more multinational companies to Switzerland.
However, opponents argue taxpayers, and particularly the middle class, will ultimately foot the bill if the strategy fails, and lead to a multi-million franc shortfall in revenue, as was the case with a previous corporate tax reform voted on in 2008.
Claude Longchamp, chairman of the board of the GfS Bern institute, says the findings of the opinion poll indicate that without support from other quarters the political left cannot muster enough votes to throw out the reform.
“Citizens in the cities are not all going to reject the reform as the left has hoped for,” he says. “But if protest voters turn out in high numbers, the race remains open.”
Another issue to come to a vote on February 12 is a plan to ease the citizenship procedure under certain conditions for so called ‘third-generation immigrants’ (with grand-parents and parents who have already lived in Switzerland, at least temporarily).
Pollsters interviewed 1,206 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country for the first of two nationwide surveys by the GfS Bern research institute ahead of the February 12 vote.
Swiss expatriates are not be included in the poll.
The telephone interviews, both with fixed line and mobile phone users, took place from December 19-30, 2016.
The margin of error is 2.9%.
The survey was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo’s parent company, and carried out by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute.
Three out of four respondents in the poll said they would approve the constitutional amendment, with 21% against and 5% undecided.
But GfS Bern political scientist Martina Mousson warns that a public debate over the issue has not yet begun in earnest.
“The federalism arguments – [leaving cantons to deal with the issue] - against the simplified citizenship procedure so far have not been able to convince citizens,” she says.
With only a few weeks to go before voting day, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party - with its traditional anti-foreigner agenda - appears reluctant to mount a high-profile counter campaign.
Experts say the party might not be keen to risk another snub by voters following last year’s defeat over a reform of the asylum law.
The latest citizenship amendment is seen as a modest version of a proposal that was rejected by voters in 2004. Its aim was to grant Swiss citizenship automatically to third-generation immigrants and it sought to simplify the procedure for second-generation immigrants.
Road traffic fund
A clear majority also backs a proposal to re-organise the funding of the country’s motorway network and roads in urban areas, according to the poll.
“Barring a major upset the proposal will pass,” says Mousson.
So far, there’s been little public controversy over the issue and only the Green Party has come out against the change to the constitution.
The proposal adopted by parliament is seen as a compromise to appease the car lobby which had asked for a massive increase in funds for road transport. The proposal was rejected in a nationwide vote last year.