Switzerland’s ‘Save our Swiss Gold’ referendum was convincingly rejected yesterday by the Swiss electorate following an aggressive anti-gold campaign in recent weeks that had been closely watched both in Switzerland and abroad.
Unusually, it involved the Swiss National Bank (SNB) very actively, and ultimately successfully, trying to convince the electorate along with the main political parties to return a ‘no’ vote.
The initiative had proposed a series of measures which would have obliged the SNB to hold a minimum of 20% of its reserves in gold, prevent the SNB from selling any gold, and force the SNB to repatriate that portion of its gold reserves that are currently stored abroad and to store gold in Switzerland.
The referendum campaign had evolved out of a popular initiative which had initially collected over 100,000 signatures between 2011 and 2013. Under Swiss law, this allowed the motion to go forward as an official referendum, even though the Swiss government, Swiss parliament and Swiss National Bank had all come out in opposition to the Gold Initiative.
In rejecting the referendum, the Swiss People voted 77.3% against, versus 22.7% for. Voters in all 23 of Switzerland’s cantons rejected the initiative in what was an unfortunate defeat for the initiative’s organisers. In most cantons, the results showed a three to one ratio in opposition to the initiative, and even a four to one ratio in a few cantons.
Opposition parties, and the SNB, are already pitching the referendum outcome as a ring of endorsement for the SNB’s current monetary policy strategy of pegging the Swiss Franc to the Euro at the 1.20 level. This is not necessarily the case and it needs to be remembered that the result also shows a substantial minority of the Swiss electorate who disapproved of the SNB’s gold reserve management strategy.
The weak showing for the ‘yes’ vote continues a trend that was seen in the series of opinion polls that were conducted during the campaign in October and November. Two official polls had been produced by political pollster gfs.bern on behalf of state broadcaster SRF. In the October poll, the yes vote was 44% versus 39% no, with 17% undecided. The last poll published on Nov. 19 had shown the yes vote slipping to 38%, with the no vote at 47%, and 15% undecided.
The weakening of the ‘yes’ vote in the final two weeks of the campaign was most likely influenced by more effective campaigning by the no side, as well as the continued intervention of the Swiss National Bank through various media appearances. The fact that none of the main political parties in Switzerland had backed the initiative also looks to have made an impact with the electorate.