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What’s behind the anti-immigrant vote in Switzerland?


Since the Swiss / EU agreement on the free movement of people, a sense of unease has been growing in Switzerland, fuelled by the crisis and exacerbated by the demagoguery of the extreme nationalist right.

The success of the anti-immigration initiative of the far-right Swiss People’s Party, led by billionaire Christoph Blocher, represents a political and diplomatic earthquake in Switzerland. It is mainly a failure of representative bodies of the country : all other political forces avoided this issue, which appears to be a back door way of rejecting bilateral relations between Switzerland and the European Union ( EU). The fear is that it opens a period of uncertainty, politically and economically, damaging the country. The initiative of populist nationalist Swiss People’s Party doesn’t come out of nowhere, however.

Since 2002 and the entry into force of the free movement deal, a feeling of unease has been growing in population, especially in its border cantons ( such as in Ticino and Geneva where more than one hundred thousand work near the border). The crisis of 2008 helped advance nationalist political forces in these regions, allowing them to enter parliament and the cantonal governments (the Lega in Ticino, the Citizens’ Movement in Geneva … ) .

As for the Swiss People’s party – now a master in the use of direct democracy – it was helped by the culpable inertia of the government and Parliament: they “forgot” accompanying measures – to avoid a downward spiral in wages and other social aspects – that they promise workers in 2002 as a necessary complement to the free movement of labour. At the same time, nearly 70,000 non-Swiss Europeans, above all from Germany and Italy, settled in Switzerland every year. There was certainly a need for foreign labour while the economy was growing (1 % annual growth with unemployment at 3%). But with purchasing power falling for a number of years, and the shortage and high cost of housing, overwhelmed public transport, etc. . people were affected in their daily lives.

If you add a sense of loss of sovereignty and a scapegoat – the immigrant – courtesy of the Swiss People’s party, this can lead to a situation where, according to a political observer, a “country shoots itself in the foot ” …

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


2 thoughts on “What’s behind the anti-immigrant vote in Switzerland?

  1. We heard that Swiss banks were mad because most of the immigrant movement came with high-skilled labor and citizens in Switzerland did not want so many higher paying jobs going to immigrant labor. I think this is a labor issue as well as being a right-wing nationalist issue. TPP is designed to flood all labor markets with immigrant labor just for the reason of ending labor laws and diluting wages for first world countries. So, it surprises me that a union writer would make this a right wing situation that hurts the country. People do not dislike immigrants…..it is just a neo-liberal policy to undermine labor and justice to flood labor markets with immigrants who are then exploited.

    Posted by Cindy Walsh | February 12, 2014, 6:12 pm


  1. Pingback: What’s behind the anti-immigrant vote in Switzerland? | Left Futures - February 13, 2014

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