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Europe

Switzerland is 190th Member of UN

With only a fraction of a majority, Swiss voters said yes to joining the United Nations. 54.6 percent of the voters and 12 of the cantons agreed to the referendum.

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Switzerland has voted to become a full member of the UN

In a historic vote, Switzerland overturned its centuries-old tradition of neutrality and elected to join the United Nations on Sunday, March 3.

The decision was on shaky ground until all the votes were counted. Although only a simple majority of the public vote was needed, more than half of the 23 cantons needed to approve the referendum for it to go into effect. In the end 2 of the cantons were in favor and 11 against becoming a full-fledged member of the UN.

Nearly 60 percent of all eligible Swiss voters showed up at the polls. For Swiss elections, the turnout was unusually high, indicative of the strong emotions the referendum raised.

The Swiss government will now submit an official request for membership to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Starting in the fall of this year, Switzerland will be the 190th full-fledged voting member in the UN General Assembly.

Sunday’s vote overthrows an earlier vote against UN membership. In 1986, during the height of the Cold War, Switzerland elected to remain neutral, and in a vote of three to one decided against joining the international organization.

Despite not having been a full member until now, Switzerland had paid more than its fair share of dues to the UN. The European headquarters for the United Nations is based in Geneva and the Alpine republic has been active in non-political UN committees such as the World Health Organization.

The vote in favor of the UN sends a strong signal that Switzerland is ready to take up a more visible role in the international community. The question of neutrality, however, will not be compromised, Swiss officials promise.

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