Patterico's Pontifications


More Election News: Switzerland

Filed under: General,International — DRJ @ 6:43 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Swiss conservative party improved its “already dominant position” as the country’s primary political group, and the main issue was immigration.

First, an explanation of the Swiss coalition government until now (courtesy of this Instapundit link and MSNBC):

Switzerland has for years been governed by a four-party coalition of the SVP [the conservative Swiss People’s Party], SP, Christian Democrat CVP and Radicals elected every four years by proportional representation. However, the hallowed principle of consensus has been strained increasingly by the rise of the SVP, which has indirectly pushed for the adversarial political systems typical of most other European countries.”

The recent election solidified the conservative party’s position at the expense of liberal political groups:

“Swiss politics on Sunday retained the capacity to surprise as reliable projections showed the ultraconservative Swiss People’s party improved its already dominant position as the country’s biggest political group. The SVP raised its share of the vote by more than 2 percentage points to almost 29 per cent after an acrimonious campaign focused, as in the past, on the party’s core issues of immigration and law and order.

The main losers were the left-of-centre Social Democrats (SP), whose share of the vote dropped by four points to 19.3 per cent, based on the exit polls. The Radicals (FDP) also suffered, with their vote falling by more than 1 percentage point to under 16 per cent.”

The main issue was apparently immigration, an issue that has been the subject of several media reports in the past months including this article from September 2007 in which the conservative party urged deportation of the families of criminal aliens. The imagery used was dramatic:

“GENEVA (AP) – The campaign poster was blatant in its xenophobic symbolism: Three white sheep kicking out a black sheep over a caption that read “for more security.” The message was not from a fringe force in Switzerland’s political scene but from its largest party. The nationalist Swiss People’s Party is proposing a deportation policy that anti-racism campaigners say evokes Nazi-era practices. Under the plan, entire families would be expelled if their children are convicted of a violent crime, drug offenses or benefits fraud.

The party is trying to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on the issue. If approved in a referendum, the law would be the only one of its kind in Europe. “We believe that parents are responsible for bringing up their children. If they can’t do it properly, they will have to bear the consequences,” Ueli Maurer, president of the People’s Party, told The Associated Press.

Ronnie Bernheim of the Swiss Foundation against Racism and Anti-Semitism said the proposal was similar to the Nazi practice of “Sippenhaft” – or kin liability – whereby relatives of criminals were held responsible for his or her crimes and punished equally. Similar practices occurred during Stalin’s purges in the early days of the Soviet Union and the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution in China, when millions were persecuted for their alleged ideological failings.

“As soon as the first 10 families and their children have been expelled from the country, then things will get better at a stroke,” said Maurer, whose party controls the Justice Ministry and shares power in an unwieldy coalition that includes all major parties. He explained that his party has long campaigned to make deportation compulsory for convicted immigrants rather than an optional and rarely applied punishment.

The party claims foreigners – who make up about 20 percent of the population – are four times more likely to commit crimes than Swiss nationals.”

The issue apparently resonated with the Swiss electorate and, by October 2007, had polarized people and started a national debate on what it means to be Swiss:

“As voters prepare to go to the polls for a general election in two weeks, the poster – and the party’s underlying message – has polarized a country that prides itself on peaceful consensus in politics, neutrality in foreign policy and tolerance in human relations. Suddenly, the campaign has turned into a nationwide debate over the place of immigrants in one of the world’s oldest democracies and over what it means to be Swiss.
“Our political enemies think the poster is racist, but it just gives a simple message,” said Bruno Walliser, a chimney sweep who is running for Parliament on the party ticket at the Schwerzenbach rally, on a farm outside of Zurich. “The black sheep is not any black sheep that doesn’t fit into the family. It’s the foreign criminal who doesn’t belong here, the one that doesn’t obey Swiss law. We don’t want him.””

Opponents protested with riots and criticized the conservative party for instilling racist policies, but the electorate was apparently more impressed by federal statistics that showed “about 70 percent of the prison population is non-Swiss.”

Furthermore, the conservative party advertisements painted a stark picture:

The party’s short, three-part film entitled “Heaven or Hell” in the current campaign clearly lays out its message. In the first segment, young men shoot heroin, steal handbags from old ladies, kick and beat up schoolboys, wield knives, and carry off a young woman.

The second segment shows Muslims living in Switzerland – women in head scarves, men sitting not working.

The third segment shows “heavenly” Switzerland: men in suits rushing to work, logos of Swiss multinational corporations, farm harvests, experiments in laboratories, lakes, mountains, churches and goats. “The choice is clear: my home, our security,” the film states.”

As noted in this AP article, the conservative party also wants to end any effort to join the EU, while the green party registered modest gains based on fears that global warming will promote glacier melt and hurt the Swiss environment (and presumably tourism).

As a long-time Mark Steyn reader, I’m convinced this is a debate much or perhaps all of Europe will face over the next decade.


12 Responses to “More Election News: Switzerland”

  1. And, it’s not going to be ignored here, either.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  2. The caption for the poster showing three white sheep kicking out a black sheep reads “Sicherheit schaffen,” which means “Creating security.” However, there is a pun here, since “Schaf” means “sheep.” It could also be read “Safety sheep.”

    dchamil (8a4a2d)

  3. That is interesting, dchamil. There are so many layers to language and it also reminds me of Driver’s sheepdog/warrior analogy.

    DRJ (35ac59)

  4. The Swiss seem to have always hated outsiders living in their country. Or so I have read. Thing is, whenever I have visited, they have been among the kindest people on the planet.

    Patterico (bad89b)

  5. That’s because they’re pretty sure you won’t be staying…

    Start asking about realestate, and you might see their manners take an unpleasant turn…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  6. Err … actually … Switzerland is very hospitable to foreigners. From Nazi war criminals to American tax evaders. As long as they can pay their bills.

    nk (da3e6b)

  7. From reading the articles, it does seem the Swiss see the problem as criminal aliens and not foreigners per se. Plus, the Swiss seem more willing to blame parents for the actions of their offspring than some Americans might be.

    DRJ (35ac59)

  8. I’ve found the Swiss to be wonderful. Perhaps they do not like those who decide to reside in Switzerland and change it into Mexico.

    I can understand that.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  9. Imagine that, the Swiss believe that foreign residents of Switzerland should respect Swiss culture and Swiss laws…and horrors, if they don’t the foreigners are asked to leave. As the article states, once 10 families or so are kick out there will be a big and positive attitude adjustment.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  10. I hope switzerland votes itself out of the EUROWEENIE UNION they dont ned to have anything to do with it anymore and to vote to dump the euro as well

    krazy kagu (a6e311)

  11. Outsiders to we Swiss were always a mixeed blessing. The tourist dollar remains important and most Swsiss genuinely enjoy showing their country’s beauty to visitors. However, the large number (some 20% of the population) of foreign workers and their families have never been accepted. Even after living for years in Switzerland, speaking the local dialect, and working as hard as the Swiss, most permanent immigrants still struggle to be seen as deserving of living in Switzerland. Swiss tend to be highly suspicious of foreigners in their midst; many school children undergo bullying and discrimination from classmates and teachers.

    On the other hand, most crimes in Switzerland are committed by non-native Swiss, so the desire to get tough with this unpleasant fringe is understandable. It’s simply too bad that the SVP resorted to such an aggressive populist tactic. In any case their campaign struck a responsive chord with the voters.

    Pigilito (8f720c)

  12. I’m surprised that the people who are so tolerant of the foreign criminals “rioted” because of the ads. I wonder if they would also considering rioting over cartoons? It always seems to be the progressives that quickly turn to primitive methods when their tolerance is challenged.

    wallyj (8b4d53)

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