Swiss voters have backed proposals to impose some of the world’s strictest controls on executive pay, final referendum results show.
Nearly 68% of the voters supported plans to give shareholders a veto on compensation and ban big payouts for new and departing managers.
Business groups argued the proposals would damage Swiss competitiveness.
But analysts say ordinary Swiss are concerned about a growing economic divide in the country.
The vote came just days after the EU approved measures to cap bankers bonuses.
The final results showed that all 26 Swiss cantons backed the proposals.
In all, 1.6 million voters said “Yes” against 762,000, who rejected the idea.
The multibillion dollar losses by Swiss banking giant UBS, and thousands of redundancies at pharmaceutical company Novartis, have caused anger in Switzerland – because high salaries and bonuses for managers continued unchanged.
The new measures will give Switzerland some of the world’s strictest corporate rules.
Shareholders will have a veto over salaries, golden handshakes will be forbidden, and managers of companies who flout the rules could face prison.
The “fat cat initiative”, as it has been called, will be written into the Swiss constitution and apply to all Swiss companies listed on Switzerland’s stock exchange.
Support for the plans – brain child of Swiss businessman turned politician Thomas Minder – has been fuelled by a series of perceived disasters for major Swiss companies, coupled with salaries and bonuses staying high.
The main example is banking giant UBS, which wrote off billions in the wake of the 2007 sub-prime mortgage crisis, and then had to be bailed out by the Swiss government.
In February it was announced that the outgoing chairman of Novartis, Daniel Vasella, would be receiving a $78 million non-compete pay off over six years
A further incident came in February when it was announced that the outgoing chairman of Novartis, Daniel Vasella, would be receiving a 72 million Swiss francs ($78 million) “non-compete” pay off over six years, designed to stop him working for other related industries.
The payment was later scrapped, but it provoked anger and amazement in Switzerland, because Daniel Vasella’s salary had been regarded as too high and Novartis had been cutting jobs.
One of the organizers of the referendum, Brigitte Moser Harder, said she thought the Swiss people agreed with the proposals because the gap between rich and poor had become wider.
“From the beginning, 2006, we had the support of the people of Switzerland because you know not everybody in Switzerland is rich.
“It’s also a social problem because the high wages got higher and the small ones sometimes just got lower. I think people have the support of the Swiss people because of that.”
Meanwhile, under an EU deal agreed last week by the bloc’s 27 nations, bonuses will be capped at a year’s salary, but can rise to two year’s pay if there is explicit approval from shareholders.
The UK argued the EU bonus rules would drive away talent and restrict growth in the financial sector.
According to unofficial and preliminary results, Egyptians appear to have approved the controversial new constitution in a referendum.
Results reported by Egyptian state media suggest that some 63% backed the charter over two rounds of voting.
Critics say the document, which has triggered mass protests, betrays the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
President Mohamed Morsi’s mainly Islamist supporters say it will secure democracy and encourage stability.
Official results are not expected until Monday, after appeals are heard. If the constitution passes, parliamentary elections must take place within three months.
Turnout was put at about 30%. The opposition said voting in both rounds of voting had been marred by abuses.
Violations in the second round on Saturday ranged from polling stations opening late to Islamists seeking to influence voters, the opposition said.
On Saturday, ballots were being cast in the 17 provinces that did not vote in the first round on December 15. Some 25 million people were eligible to vote.
The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement said early on Sunday that, with most votes counted, more than 70% were in favor.
The opposition National Salvation Front also said the “yes” vote appeared to have won.
In the first round, on December 15, turnout was reported to be just above 30% with unofficial counts suggesting some 56% of those who cast ballots voted in favor of the draft.
Opponents have said the draft constitution fails to protect the freedoms and human rights that they sought in the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s rule last year.
They accuse the president of pushing through a text that favors Islamists and does not sufficiently protect the rights of women or Christians, who make up about 10% of the population.
Egypt’s official state news agency Mena said that at least two judges had been removed for encouraging voters to cast “yes” ballots.
According to unofficial and preliminary results, Egyptians appear to have approved the controversial new constitution in a referendum
One Egyptian, 19-year-old law student Ahmed Mohammed, said he voted “yes” because Egypt “needs a constitution to be stable”.
But at the same polling station in Giza, south-west of the capital, 50-year-old housewife, Zarifa Abdul Aziz, said: “I will vote <<no>> a thousand times. I am not comfortable with the Brotherhood and all that it is doing.”
As voting took place on Saturday, the country’s Vice-President Mahmoud Mekki announced his resignation.
Mahmoud Mekki, a former judge who was appointed vice-president in August, said the “nature of politics” did not suit his professional background.
Over the past month, seven of President Mohamed Morsi’s 17 top advisers have resigned.
Mahmoud Mekki said he had tried to resign on November 7, but his decision had been delayed by the Israeli conflict in Gaza and President Mohamed Morsi’s controversial decree on November 22 granting himself sweeping new powers.
His resignation statement indicated he had no prior knowledge of the decree, which stripped the judiciary of powers to question the president’s decisions.
After an outcry, the president revoked much of the November 22 decree, but he refused to back down on the draft constitution.
The text was rushed through by a constituent assembly dominated by Islamists and boycotted by liberal and left-wing members, and facing a threat of dissolution by the country’s top court.
Egypt has seen large demonstrations by both sides, which have occasionally turned violent, ever since.