- Title: SWISS-VOTE Swiss cast votes on immigration, gold reserves
- Date: 30th November 2014
- Summary: GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF BARDONNEX BORDER CHECKPOINT BETWEEN FRANCE AND SWITZERLAND
- Embargoed: 15th December 2014 12:00
- Location: Switzerland
- Country: Switzerland
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA6DUGFHWKQF6CCXI0MUNFLJDG7
- Story Text: Swiss voters went to the polls on Sunday (November) to decide whether to force the central bank to boost its gold reserves and whether to impose radical limits on immigration in a series of referendums that have put global markets and business leaders on their guard.
Sunday's votes reflect growing unease with what some of the population view as a dangerous drift away from traditional Swiss values.
Margarida, who was voting at a polling station in Geneva, said she feared the results of the immigration referendum, where voters are being asked to decide whether to cut annual immigration by three-quarters from current levels, with the aim of reducing the strain that high levels of immigration have put on Switzerland's natural resources.
"Some political parties use the crisis to sensitise....well to motivate people to vote against immigration, when the crisis we are now undergoing is not caused by immigration, there are other factors which create this crisis, but not them (foreigners). So I fear that people might go in that direction," she said.
Despite Switzerland's prosperity, some citizens see the country as under siege - from immigrants seeking work and from trading partners who have insisted in recent years that the Swiss dismantle their business model based on banking secrecy.
Switzerland's system of direct democracy gives citizens the right to force popular votes if they can gather enough signatures of support.
The recent flurry of popular initiatives is having repercussions beyond the country's borders, threatening to undermine its reputation for stability, spooking foreign firms, and fueling debate about ties with the European Union, of which Switzerland is not a member.
Voter, Giuseppe, said he thought immigration could only benefit his country.
"I like it that we are free to go wherever we want, and especially young people, and that there are no borders, you understand, and that we are free to go from one nation to another. This is wonderful. And we do need, here in Switzerland, that foreign workers come to work, you see," he said.
In February, the approval of a previous vote to limit immigration called into question the country's commitment to the free movement of people principle on which Switzerland's economic ties with the EU are based.
But Swiss voters looked set to clearly reject the current proposal on immigration, as well as a separate referendum that would have forced the central bank to buy up massive amounts of gold.
The measure would have compelled the Swiss National Bank (SNB) to boost its gold reserves to 20 percent from around 8 percent currently, complicating policy at a time when the central bank is trying to defend a 1.20 euro cap on the Swiss franc imposed at the height of the euro crisis.
The central bank had urged voters to reject the gold initiative, saying it would have to buy 70 billion Swiss francs ($72.5 billion) worth of gold - around two-thirds of the world's total annual gold production - within five years to build up its reserves.
A third vote to decide whether to scrap one of Switzerland's biggest tax perks for expatriates could deal a blow to the country's reputation as a tax haven.
Final results are expected by around 1600 GMT.
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