Moutier is voting for the ninth time on belonging to a canton – the nerves are on edge
For the ninth time, Moutier will vote on his cantonal membership on Sunday. This should finally find an answer to the age-old Jura question. With the federal government, the nerves are on edge.
Moutier is a place that has almost no fog. This is because the high Jura chains shield the town from the north and south. This meteorological fact is also remarkable because it is diametrically opposed to political reality. Because Moutier has been poking around in the fog for many years when it comes to the question of whether the city belongs to the canton of Jura or the canton of Bern.
Moutier will vote on it for the ninth time on Sunday. Some believe that this will finally settle the law question. Others have given up hope. The federal government watches over the vote with eagle eyes. Federal Councilor Karin Keller-Sutter traveled to Moutier two weeks ago to get an idea of the situation. She met with Pierre Alain Schnegg, the President of the Bernese cantonal government, his Jura counterpart Nathalie Barthoulot and a delegation from the Moutier municipal council. So this time it has to work.
After the 2017 vote was declared invalid due to irregularities, the federal government made an extraordinary effort for next Sunday. He sent out the voting papers and even monitored the ballot box. The envelopes were given personally to residents of the old people’s home or hospital who are under guardianship so that no one can intercept and fill out the voting rights. The voting slips are all watermarked. Voting observers who are otherwise deployed abroad were also called up to Moutier for next Sunday. It is truly an unprecedented spectacle in the history of Swiss democracy.
Jurassic heart, Bernese wallet
In the week before the vote, however, it is quiet in Moutier. Two asked passers-by say that they will vote for a change of canton. Why? “The heart has reasons of its own.” It is the slogan of the pro-Jurassic side. There is no sign of a heated voting battle. At least not in the streets, which is largely due to the Corona measures. But the two camps – Projurassier and Berntreue – are on the roof in the social media and in the letters to the editor of the local press. The Bern faithful say: “The heart may be Jurassic, but the wallet is Bernese.”
The mayor of Moutier, Marcel Winistoerfer, receives in the town hall. He is a staunch Projurassier, has lived in Moutier all his life, but only entered politics at the age of 49. Winistoerfer says: “The gap is particularly noticeable in Parliament, but not in the everyday life of the population.” He himself wears a vest from the loyal tailor next door. For him, changing cantons is a natural process. He says: “This question shouldn’t even be asked.”
Winistoerfer has been working as a secondary school teacher for 40 years. One of his sons is also a teacher and lives in Moutier. How would he describe the people here? “Very fine and precise.” This answer fits the fact that Moutier is famous for its precision engineering operations. Can you tell from people which side they are on? “Not on the outside, but it quickly becomes clear in conversation.” Depending on what music you listen to or from which angle you look at Moutier’s story. “If someone likes to travel to Schwingfest, he is more likely to be attuned to the Bern loyalists,” says Winistoerfer with a wink.
Completely different characters
If you ask around, there should also be cultural and character differences between the two camps. The Projurassier are considered extroverted living people. Their great advocate is Valentin Zuber, who is sharp-tongued and aggressive in advocating the separatist cause. The Amber Loyalists are considered reserved and introverted, and their campaign lacks a central luminous figure. The lamp designer Steve Léchot is often in the media as a representative of the Berntreuer, but he doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with Zuber. At least that is the common opinion in Moutier.
Outside on the square in front of the municipal office, the question arises: At what other place in Switzerland does the flag of another canton hang on the town hall? With this in mind, it goes to «Moutier Plus», the trial voting committee.
The main street is lined with projurassic posters. The meeting takes place at Marcelle Forster’s home. From the living room you have a direct view of the mighty Jura chains. The SP politician is a figurehead of the loyal movement. She is a pragmatist. Also present is Morena Pozner, head of a nursing home and also a SP politician in Moutier. Again and again, the two refer to figures and calculations, show the severe economic damage Moutier would face if he changed cantons.
asks Pozner rhetorically. “We are not romantics, we are concerned with realpolitik.” Just the transfer would cause horrendous costs. “The world is becoming more and more global, borders are disappearing, but here of all people there is a dispute over the course of a few kilometers,” says Forster, who was previously a councilor in Moutier.
The regional hospital in Moutier is particularly explosive, as it has not been conclusively clarified how things will proceed after a change of canton. A hospital cannot provide services if the canton does not provide it with the appropriate funds. The canton of Jura has not yet made a firm commitment to the continued existence of the hospital. “There is no certainty that the health system for the elderly will be able to cope with a change to the Jura without the low-income residents suffering major disadvantages,” said Pozner.
No absolute guarantee that the vote will be valid this time
Both camps believe in victory. Both hope and fear. A big sticking point is the electoral register, which was the undoing of the 2017 vote. Above all, wrong domiciles led to the cancellation of the vote. That is why the municipality of Moutier, the two cantons of Bern and Jura, and the federal government have jointly decided that the electoral register must be meticulously checked. The Bernese State Chancellery was even given direct access to the electoral register. 800 letters were sent to check the living situation of individuals, says the federal law delegate, Jean-Christophe Geiser.
Hardly anyone knows the Jurassic conflict in all its different facets like him. But he is neutral, he says. “There is no absolute guarantee that the vote will not be declared invalid again.” In the last vote in 2017, the difference was only 137 votes. No wonder, your nerves are on edge. How will the vote be? Will the losers file an appeal? Will people stream in front of the town hall despite the pandemic requirements? Will the Jura question finally find an answer? The fog will clear on Sunday. Maybe. (aargauerzeitung.ch)
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