Saturday

20th Jan 2018

Historic win for Swiss anti-immigration, anti-EU party

  • The anti-EU Swiss People's Party (SVP) won 29.5 percent of the vote, up from 26.6 percent. (Photo: Metro Centric)

Relations between Brussels and Bern can be expected to stay frosty after Switzerland's anti-immigration party won Sunday's (18 October) lower house elections.

The Swiss People's Party (SVP) won 29.5 percent of the vote, up from 26.6 percent. It won 11 seats and will now occupy 65 of the National Council's 200 seats.

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According to Swiss media, never before proportional representation was introduced in 1919 has one single party been so strongly represented in the National Council.

The SVP campaigned with strong rules on migration, warning of "asylum chaos", and a promise to keep Switzerland out of the European Union.

In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung, SVP leader Toni Brunner said "the federal government is acting as if Switzerland has asylum politics under control. People have noticed that this is not true".

Brunner used the word "Völkerwanderung", which in German is a term employed to describe the so-called Barbarian invasions of non-Roman tribes of the declining Roman empire in the 4th to 9th Century.

Brunner also explained his party's success as proof that the Swiss people do not want closer ties to the EU.

"The fact that Switzerland wants to close a framework agreement with Brussels, which will undermine our sovereignty and people's rights, obviously disturbs a large part of the population", said Brunner.

The centre-left social democrats came second in the election with 18.9 percent, which was only a 0.2 percentage point increase. But with the centre-right Liberal Party (FDP) in third place, a clear right-wing majority has emerged in the National Council.

Several newspapers in neighbouring Germany therefore spoke of a "Rechtsrutsch", a swing to the right.

However, Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) said it was rather a "return to normality".

In an editorial commentary, the NZZ noted that "a win of several percentage points is hardly a landslide" and that while two right-wing parties now have a majority, they are no homogeneous block but have differing views.

"[The term] 'Rechtsrutsch', like 'asylum chaos', is a part of the vocabulary of fear", the paper noted.

Switzerland is a country with a strong tradition of grand coalitions, with a federal government that consists of seven members, and a position of federal president that rotate between them.

However, the vote is indicative of the mood in the country, and is likely to influence relations with the European Union.

Last year, the Alpine nation voted in an SVP-backed referendum "against mass immigration". Following the vote, it announced new rules that included immigration quotas for EU citizens as of 2017, something which Brussels says is incompatible with Switzerland's participation in the border-free Schengen area.

The EU is expecting a new referendum if Switzerland wants to normalise relations, diplomat Maciej Popowski said earlier this year.

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