Swiss voters cast ballots on proposal to abolish mandatory military service

For the third time in almost a quarter-century, neutral Switzerland is voting on a proposal to abolish mandatory service in its army.

Voters were heading to the polls Sunday on a referendum by pacifists and left-wing parties that would do away with military conscription, despite similar proposals that were defeated in 1989 and 2001.

Surveys indicate it is likely to be defeated again, with more than two-thirds of the country still favoring mandatory service for most men between the ages of 18 to 34. Women can serve voluntarily.

The Swiss government has urged voters to retain the service — counter to what most Western European nations have done since the Cold War. About 20,000 soldiers a year attend basic training for 18 to 21 weeks.