Health & Covid, 15.09.2021

Party leaders’ Covid certificate plan blocked

From Monday of this week, restaurants, fitness centres and indoor events have been subject to a strict certificate requirement. The rules for the session of the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Council of States (Ständerat), which begin on the same day in the Federal Parliament, are different, however: both unvaccinated and untested people are also allowed to take part here. A plan by the party leaders to change this has now been rejected.

The President of the Council of States, Alex Kuprecht, told CH Media quite clearly on Sunday: "It’s completely unrealistic to expect that we could create a (Covid) certificate requirement for parliamentarians within the first or second week."

Alex Kuprecht heads the administrative delegation of the Parliament that is responsible for this issue. The SVP politician says that he himself understands the criticism of this "special rule" for parliamentarians and wants a quick solution. But he emphasizes:

"We cannot simply disregard parliamentary law. Where would we end up if those who make the laws didn't abide by it themselves?"

He is referring here to Article 10 of the Parliamentary Act. This obliges the members of the National Council and the Council of States to participate in the meetings of the councils and commissions. He adds: "There’s currently no legal basis for restricting the rights and obligations of council members."

That’s why he couldn’t exclude parliamentarians from the session, in the same way as National Council President Andreas Aebi (SVP) couldn’t exclude parliamentarians from the session if they didn’t want to be vaccinated or tested. Every elected member has a right to participate.

Search for a solution in an express procedure
Alex Ruprecht is now trying to establish a legal basis for a (Covid) certificate obligation via an express procedure. The president of the administrative delegation says that he will seek a corresponding proposal with the presidents of the two state political commissions. He had envisaged Monday, but that was not possible: "The Commission of the Council of States only meets on Wednesday, and that of the National Council on Thursday."

The Plexiglas in the National Council Chamber remains - but is it enough, or will it soon need a certificate for participation in parliamentary sessions?
Stock photo from Swissinfo

The procedure is complicated - as always when it comes to making laws. Until the basis for a Covid certificate obligation has been laid, the following must be met:

Even in this were to take place at high speed, it would not possible within a few days. Alex Kuprecht adds: "In the very best case, the solution would be for the third week of the sessions." This would also be worthwhile, especially as this basis would then also apply outside the session, for commission meetings.

It has thereby become clear that the demand of the party presidents to only allow access to parliament on presentation of a Covid certificate from the beginning of the session cannot be fulfilled. According to the "SonntagsZeitung",  GLP President Jürg Grossen initiated a letter that all other party presidents have signed – with the exception of the SVP, who Grosse didn’t approach.

The letter calls for "the autumn session for parliamentarians to be carried out with a Covid certificate requirement". There is no convincing reason to exempt them from the Covid certificate requirement.

This demand was already loud in the "Schweiz am Wochenende” (Switzerland at the weekend) publication. Ruth Humbel (Die Mitte), National Councillor and President of the Health Commission, said that Parliament must lead by example. This is all the more so when we impose the certificate requirement on restaurants, fitness centres, museums and others". She thereby considers the objection that parliamentarians are obliged by law to participate in the session, and that an entry barrier is therefore not possible, to be an excuse:

"You can be tested for free every day in the Federal Building (Bundeshaus). But some apparently don't want a test, out of fear that it could be positive."

But she is convinced that, in such an extraordinary situation, one could demand this.

There are also prominent supporters of this demand in the SVP. National Council President Andreas Aebi is in favour of the certificate requirement, as he told the "SonntagsZeitung". Alex Kuprecht spoke to Andreas Aebi about this – and the difference between the two parliamentary presidents is not about the subject itself, but about the procedure. Alex Kuprecht insists: "There is no shortcut, we have to work cleanly as a legislature."

Editor's comment: Does this mean that the imposition of the Covid certificate requirement by the Federal Council will now result in one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, i.e. the right of duly elected representatives to attend Parliament - being ignored. Every person also has the right to refuse to be tested or vaccinated, but will this now be used to exclude such persons from participation in the parliamentary system? .