Youth wing of Swiss People’s Party calls for Coca-Cola boycott over homophobia referendum

On Monday, Coca-Cola indicated its support for an upcoming Swiss referendum criminalising homophobia. As a result, the leaders of the youth branch of the Swiss Peoples Party (SVP) - the largest party in Switzerland - are calling for a boycott.

Youth wing of Swiss People's Party calls for Coca-Cola boycott over homophobia referendum
Image courtesy Coca Cola

On February 9th, Switzerland will go to the polls to vote on an initiative which would criminalise homophobia to the same extent as other forms of discrimination based on race and gender. 

Early indications are that the referendum has the majority support of Swiss voters. 

The Coca-Cola Company in Switzerland on Monday publicly indicated its support for the initiative. 

EXPLAINED: The Swiss referendum that could criminalise homophobia 

READ MORE: EU migration to affordable housing: All you need to know about Switzerland's crucial spring referendums

As a result, the President of the youth wing of the Swiss People’s Party (JSVP) Benjamin Fischer, 29, put out a press release on Tuesday telling followers to boycott the world’s best-known soft drink company, calling for them to switch to Pepsi or Vivi Kola instead. 

Alongside the hard-right Federal Democratic Union, the JSVP are one of the highest-profile opponents of the referendum, saying that restrictions on homophobic statements would amount to a curtailing of free speech rights. 

‘For a colourful Switzerland’

Although the American soft drink company has involved itself in political campaigns elsewhere before, such political engagement is rare in Switzerland. 

As reported by Swiss tabloid Blick, this is the first time the company has openly joined a political campaign in the Central European nation. 

Entitled the 'Equality Manifesto', on Monday the company launched a campaign calling for a colourful Switzerland in all four Swiss national languages, as well as in English. 

Coca-Cola Switzerland’s Managing Director announced “it is the diversity in this country that makes Switzerland an unprecedented success story.”

While Coke says they are not telling people how to vote, they said they want to “hitch their colours to a colourful Switzerland.”

The full campaign including five languages. Image courtesy Coca-Cola

‘I don’t like Coca-Cola anymore’

In a media release from Tuesday, Fischer criticised the company’s political statement, saying “I don’t like Coca-Cola anymore”. 

In a tweet which has since been deleted, Fischer said there were other cola alternatives that supporters should switch to. 

The party also called out what it perceives to be the company’s hypocrisy, highlighting that the drink is sold in several countries where homosexual acts are criminalised. 

JSVP Managing Director David Trachsel, 25, told Blick that the company is “showing itself in a light it is not entitled to”. 

“Coca Cola is doing business in countries where homosexuality is still banned or even punished with death.”

Trachsel said he no longer wanted to drink Coca-Cola ever again as a result, or at least for a year. 

The referendum, alongside another vote on affordable housing, will be held on February 9th. 


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Swiss back ‘Netflix’ law and steer clear of ‘Frontexit’

Swiss voters on Sunday backed making streaming services pay to boost Swiss film-making, and funding the expansion of Europe's Frontex border agency, thereby avoiding another row with Brussels, according to projected results.

Swiss back 'Netflix' law and steer clear of 'Frontexit'

Market researchers GFS Bern, who conducted the main polling throughout the campaign, projected that 58 percent of voters backed the so-called “Lex Netflix”.

They said 72 percent backed Switzerland joining the planned ramping up of Frontex, providing more money and staff to protect the continent’s Schengen open-borders zone.

And 59 percent approved a law change that would automatically register individuals as organ donors after death, unless they opt out.

Under the wealthy Alpine nation’s direct democracy system, voters are called to the polls four times a year to decide on specific topics, according to popular demand.

The polls closed at midday (1000 GMT), with most ballots having already been sent in by post over the past four weeks.

The results are due later Sunday, with each of the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons reporting their results in turn.

Lex Netflix
The “Lex Netflix” vote approves an amendment to the Film Production Act adopted by parliament last October.

Since 2007, domestic television broadcasters have been obliged to invest four percent of their turnover in Swiss film-making.

The amendment was brought forward to reflect the dramatic shift in how audio-visual content is now consumed, with global streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Blue now making hundreds of millions of dollars in
Switzerland each year.

Streaming services will now have to submit to the four-percent rule.

Swiss cinema production pulls in around 105 million Swiss francs ($106 million, 101 million euros) a year, according to the culture ministry — but could now be in line for an additional 18 million francs.

The platforms will also be required to ensure that European-made films or series make up at least 30 percent of the content available in Switzerland, as in the neighbouring European Union.

Right-leaning opponents had collected enough signatures to take the change to a referendum.

Transplant laws
The vote on changing the organ donation laws will see everyone become a potential donor after death unless they have expressly opted out.

Up to now, transplants were only possible if the donor clearly consented before they died.

The government and parliament wanted to change the law to a “presumed consent” model — as used in a number of other European countries.

Relatives will still have the right of refusal if they suspected that the deceased would not have wanted to be an organ donor.

A group of opponents, backed by the populist and religious right, gathered enough signatures to force a referendum.

At the end of 2021, more than 1,400 patients were awaiting transplant organs in Switzerland, a country of around 8.6 million people. 

But 72 people died last year while on the waiting list, according to the Swisstransplant organisation.

Frontexit averted
Ties between Brussels and Bern have been strained since May 2021 when non-EU Switzerland suddenly decided to end years of discussion towards a broad cooperation agreement with the bloc.

The clear support for Frontex has avoided aggravating the stand-off.

Under Europe’s expansion plan, Frontex will have a permanent contingent of 10,000 border guards and coast guards.

Switzerland will nearly triple its financial contribution to Frontex to 61 million Swiss francs ($61 million, 58 million euros) annually, and increase its personnel contribution from six people to around 40.

Migrant support organisations, backed by left-leaning political parties, collected enough signatures to force a referendum.

The government warned voters that if they rejected the expansion, Switzerland risked automatic exclusion from the Schengen area.