Concerned citizens move to the Federal Court

Bundesgericht Bundesversammlung Nationalrat Ständerat Bern Herbstsession Energiegesetz Verfassung
The Federal Court in Lausanne should bring clarity to the energy law. (Image: media service)

The decision of the Federal Assembly to amend the Energy Act is causing displeasure. Now two dozen citizens are fighting back in federal court and their arguments are hard to dismiss.

At the end of the fall session things got heated in the Federal Assembly and the events are still causing an enormous stir. On the very last day, in fact, the Federal Assembly unceremoniously took the decision to amend the Energy Act.

The law came into being in a hasty exercise. According to experts the procedure violated the basic democratic framework of Switzerland, as was also reported by

Rebellion of citizens

Against this decision, without any legal or constitutional basis, two dozen voters from the canton of Solothurn filed a voting rights complaint as private citizens with the Federal Supreme Court in due time.

“We have now asked the Federal Supreme Court within five days of the decision by means of a voting rights complaint to save the rule of law and democracy, to repeal the law or to order a mandatory referendum,” Elias Meier Vogt told on Monday evening on behalf of the complainants.

A letter with the same wording had also been sent to the Solothurn government council, it was further stated by Meier Vogt, who is also president of the Swiss Free Landscape Association.

Submission of wishes

According to the statement, the decision violates the federal constitution seven times: BV 165 (urgency), BV 78 (nature and homeland protection), BV 89 (energy), BV 75 (spatial planning), BV 43 (separation of powers) and BV 34 (political rights) as well as BV 140 (mandatory referendum).

It was even the first case in the history of the Swiss federal state in which the parliament suppressed a mandatory referendum, it continued, illustrating the dimension of the problem.

Many contents of the law were also added or changed at unusually short notice during negotiations in the fall session, according to observers.

For example, the UREK-N commission did not propose raising the Grimselsee dam until Sept. 23 for the attention of the National Council. This was just seven days before the final vote.

The fact that the reservoir actually has two walls and not just one is said to have emerged only after the vote in the National Council.

Secret expert opinion

The Federal Office of Justice BFJ prepared a legal opinion on the first draft of the law revision for the attention of the Council of States, which denied the urgency and constitutionality of the law.

For the attention of the UREK-N, however, the BFJ drew up a second expert opinion – said to have suddenly judged the amendment to be constitutional.

In response to a request for disclosure, the UREK-N refused – twice – to disclose the contents of this second expert opinion. The disclosure is now also demanded in the appeal on voting rights, the complainants emphasized.

Sticking point referendum

But even if the urgency were given, the federal decree is wrong because it only provides for an optional referendum before the people and not a mandatory one before the people and the cantons, the communiqué continued. The latter, however, would be required under the federal constitution.

In any case, the amendment to the law is entitled “Urgent measures for the short-term provision of a secure power supply in winter”. However, all of those  resolutions are unlikely to solve the energy problem in the coming winter, which is why the complainants certainly have weighty arguments in hand.

Why the rush?

The complainants’ concerns cannot be dismissed out of hand, because in the future, for the construction of highways, nuclear power plants, or even the suspension of elections, if the timing seems ‘inconvenient’.

Such urgent constitutional amending laws could again simply be enacted.


Concerned citizens move to the Federal Court

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