Neutral but armed to the teeth: Swiss voters back military conscription


An aspirant-officier of the Swiss Army rescue troops takes part in a training session on September 19, 2013, in Epeisse near Geneva.


Fabrice Coffrini

GENEVA, Switzerland - Swiss voters rejected on Sunday a bill that would end conscription, maintaining Switzerland as one of the last countries in Europe to keep mandatory military service.

The vote means that the country will maintain a militia army rather than a professional army of volunteers.

“It is a yes to the army and to more security,” Defence Minister Ueli Maurer told reporters on Sunday.

The vote won with a 73 percent majority of the population during a referendum - a system that is widely used in the Alpine country to decide on major pieces of legislation.

All of the country's 23 cantons voted to keep conscription.

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The Swiss army numbers at 150,000 troops - a massive amount for a country of about eight million.

The referendum was instigated by a pacifist citizens group who collected enough signatures to have the vote conducted.

The pacifists argued that the system was too expensive and an anachronism in Europe.

The group said that they weren't surprised by the results given the Swiss army's importance in the country's culture.

“The army is obviously part of Switzerland’s identity. [Emotions] held the upper hand over facts,” Nikolai Prawdzic said, according to

Swiss law requires all able-bodied men to complete military service between the ages of 18 and 34.

Basic training is 18-21 weeks and is followed by yearly courses that last about 19 days.