Switzerland's Jura will not be reunited, but the border between the cantons of Bern and Jura could still be altered. The result of the self-determination referendum held yesterday in Bernese Jura is clear enough, as 71.8% of voters rejected joining the neighboring canton of Jura and, therefore, their region will remain in the canton of Bern. But Bernese Jura's main town town Moutier said "yes" to separate from Bern ( 55.4% of affirmative votes), and now there remains the possibility that this municipality alone initiates the process to join the canton of Jura.
The Bernese Jura (see map) is the northernmost territory of the canton of Bern. The canton of Bern has a German-speaking majority, but in the Bernese Jura the majority language is French. Supporters of separation from Bern argue that things would be better for the Bernese Jura if the territory was to join the canton of Jura, which also has a French-speaking majority and also was part of Bern until 1979, when it separated after a referendum where the Jura Bernese -like yesterday- voted to remain in Bern.
Yesterday result confirmed that the linguistic gap is not the most important one in the area. In fact, the vote coincided with the religious gap. The Bernese Jura has a Protestant majority, as does the rest of the canton of Bern. However, the canton of Jura is predominantly Catholic. Only in Moutier a Catholic majority exists, and it is precisely there where "yes" to unification with Jura has won. In neighboring village Belprahon, where Catholics and Protestants have similar numbers, "yes" and "no" were tied yesterday. And in the rest of the region, where a solid Protestant majority exists, "no" has won everywhere. Those favorable to stay in Bern hold economic (they think the canton of Bern is more solid and richer) and geographical arguments (they say Bernese Jura is more oriented towards the neighboring regions in Bern than to the canton of Jura).
Redrawing the border around Moutier
The referendum took place yesterday because the cantons of Jura and Bern had agreed so. The deal also included the holding of a referendum on the same iddue in the canton of Jura. Unsurprisingly, 76.6% of voters there supported reunification with the Bernese Jura. Not a single municipality voted against.
The agreement between the two cantons also allows that each individual municipality decides to change cantons. And this is now the door which is left open to Moutier to separate on its own from Bern and join Jura. The mayor of Moutier, Maxime Zuber, yesterday proposed to hold a new referendum on the issue on 7th September 2015. According to Zuber, yesterday's 55.4% for "yes" is a "clear majority". And he stressed: "Moutier is not yet a Jurassian town, but it is no longer Bernese".
Things, however, are not that clear. An opinion poll released three weeks before the referendum had already predicted a "yes" majority in Moutier, but the same poll asked locals what would happen if they voted on the annexation of Moutier to Jura, without the rest of the Bernese Jura. The result then was very tight, with 48% voting "yes" and 47% choosing "no".