July 30, 2008 / 5:27 PM / 9 years ago

A vote on banning new minarets

2 Min Read

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland will hold a referendum on whether to ban building any more minarets in the Alpine country, the government said on Tuesday.

A group of politicians from the Swiss People's Party (SVP) and Federal Democratic Union gathered more than 100,000 signatures to support the initiative, saying the minarets threaten law and order.

Switzerland has two minarets, in Zurich and Geneva, which would be unaffected by the vote. Neither issues a Moslem call to prayer.

"The Federal Chancellery checks of the signature list showed that of the total 114,137 signatures turned in, 113,540 are valid," the government said in a statement.

The proposal has to be discussed by parliament before being put to a popular vote and the process could take several years.

The SVP previously ran an anti-immigration campaign featuring three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag. The campaign was condemned as racist by rights groups and the United Nations.

Swiss voters recently rejected another SVP proposal which would have made it more difficult for foreigners to secure citizenship, a campaign which included posters of yellow and black hands grabbing at Swiss passports.

Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey has said a minaret ban would threaten security, and the country's seven-member ruling council said this month it would "naturally be recommending that parliament and the electorate vote against the initiative."

The SVP's populist program focuses on tackling crime, forcing cuts in public spending and keeping Switzerland out of the European Union.

It has proven highly popular with Swiss voters in recent years and helped the party secure around 29 percent of the vote in last year's national election.

Reporting by Sam Cage; Editing by Stephen Weeks

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