On October 23, Switzerland elected the lower chamber of the parliament – the National Council. The favorite of the election was considered the ultra-right People’s Party. It stands for the drastic restriction of immigration and is against joining the EU.
Its program is best characterized by the pre-election poster: three white sheep standing on the Swiss flag are kicking a black one. The three white sheep symbolize the German, French and Italian- speaking indigenous people. The black one represents the people from Asia, Africa and south-east Europe. Or another poster: a Muslim woman wrapped in a veil from head to toe against minarets made in the form of launched rockets.
The far-right can be given credit for the result of the referendum in 2009 that resonated nearly in the entire world. Then most people in Switzerland were in favor of a ban on minarets. Subsequently, through the efforts of the People’s Party a law on expulsion from the country of migrant workers who have committed crimes on Swiss territory was adopted. In addition, the lower house of the parliament passed a law banning wearing of the burqa, but the upper (Council of States) rejected it.
Once, the People’s Party has caused a rustle. Four years ago, it won a landslide victory, gaining just over 29 percent of the vote. This time the result was more modest – 25.9 percent, and for the first time in 20 years, the support for the “populists” has diminished. Accordingly, they would get 55 out of 200 seats in the National Council (it used to be seven more). At the same time, the next candidates were significantly behind, therefore the victory is still quite convincing.
The runner-up, the Social Democratic Party, gained the support of 18.1 percent of voters, the liberal Free Democratic Party – 15.3 percent, the conservative Christian Democrats – 13.1 percent. The Green Party, the Liberal Green Party and Bourgeois-democratic party also made it to the Parliament. The last three parties secured from five to eight percent.
It would be wrong to consider the results of the current right-wing voting a failure also because many other parties in recent years too abruptly turned “right”. The conservatives supported the People’s Party when voting to ban the burqa. The need to tighten immigration policies was discussed by many other parties, and the question of joining the European Union is no longer on the agenda. There was a partial overlap of the slogans of the far right, which led to a drop in their rankings.
In no other country in Europe the far-right could win elections, while in Switzerland it has happened twice already. This is largely explained by the specificity of the country. It is difficult today in the Old World to find another country where such a high percentage of the population lives in rural areas. Residents of the Alpine mountain villages are completely integrated in the modern life and keep up with the times, but they cherish the tradition stronger than in other places.
All major political forces in the country have to take into account the desire of its people to hold on to traditional ways and resist newcomers trying to break it. (Switzerland is the country of direct democracy, where every year several referenda on a variety of issues take place). Accordingly, the rules for obtaining citizenship in the Alpine Confederation are perhaps the toughest in Europe. First you have to obtain citizenship in the community, then – in the canton and only then – on the country level.
Despite all the obstacles, the number of migrant workers in Switzerland is over 20 percent of the population, but in absolute terms there is half million people. Immigrants work in construction, hotels, and all kinds of menial work. However, highly skilled engineers and programmers are also welcomed. The level of education among the indigenous Swiss is relatively low (due to the large number of people living in rural areas), but it still is higher than that of the newcomers.
Until certain time Switzerland drove people rather close in terms of culture. After the war, people of southern Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece came here to work. Since the 1960s the former Yugoslavia residents – Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Albanians began to emerge. Gradually the Turks began to move to the German part of Switzerland (there are many of them in Germany), and the Arabs and immigrants from Africa – to the French. Colonies of the Kosovo Albanians since the early 1960s were in German and Italian regions. To date, Muslim immigrants make up about a quarter of all visitors (400,000). The most numerous of them are Albanians, Turks, Arabs, and the Bosnian Muslims. Practicing Muslims account for not more than 50 thousand, but Switzerland has some 170 mosques – even if only four have a minaret. Women wearing the hijab and burqa have long been an integral part of the urban landscape in Geneva and Zurich.
Many indigenous Swiss simply shudder at their national soccer team. Among its leaders are Turk Gokhan Inler, Eren Derdiyok, Hakan Yakin, Albanian Valon Behrami and Dzherdana Shakira, Black Johan Djourou and Gelson Fernandes. The image is complete with the Spaniards and the Croats. It may seem that already half of the Swiss population is newcomers. Yet, it is still not the case.
It should also be borne in mind that the Swiss had suffered for their present peace and prosperity after going through many wars and conflicts. They came up with such a government in which members of one linguistic group have their own mono-ethnic area (Canton), but ultimately different cantons form a government with three state languages (German, French, Italian), and one official (Romansh).
The emergence of new ethnic groups will certainly upset the balance. Hence the success enjoyed by the People’s Party. Incidentally, the Swiss far-right differ from their colleagues in Europe because they represent different linguistic and religious groups. They defend the Swiss idea, and the German, French- and Italian Swiss, Catholics and Protestants vote for them. All of them (albeit in somewhat different degrees) would like to keep the way of life that led to the prosperity of Switzerland.
In addition to the issue of immigration, the Swiss see that things in the neighboring European Union are not that great. The Euro (in contrast to the Swiss franc) fluctuates significantly. And if we talk about business immigrant, now EU leaders one by one accept that the policy of integration into the society (especially of the Muslims, but not only them) has failed. The desire for relative isolation in Switzerland is strong. It is reflected in the outcome of the elections.