Swiss Nationalists Thrive amid Europe’s Immigration Concerns

November 02, 2007 12:27 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) breaks ballot records in the wake of an election campaign that the United Nations denounced as racist; is this result a gauge of broader European opinion?

30-Second Summary

On Oct. 21, official results showed that the SVP secured a larger portion of the vote than any Swiss party since World War II.

The party’s success followed a controversial campaign during which rioters attacked an SVP rally.

That violence was at least in part sparked by the publication of a campaign poster depicting a white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag.

The image reflects the SVP’s line on immigration. But it is not certain how far the nationalists will go in using their electoral mandate to impose more stringent regulations on foreign residents.

“With unemployment at 4 percent … the SVP’s harsh line on immigration may give way to greater flexibility given many companies’ demand for skilled labor,” writes The Economist.

When the SVP won 28 percent of the vote in 2003, only one point less than in this year’s election, commentators ranked its leader, Christoph Blocher, alongside other extreme-right European figures, such as Austria’s Jörg Haider, France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen and Pim Fortuyn of the Netherlands.

Haider and Le Pen’s stock has sunk, and Fortuyn is dead. But to many observers, Blocher’s success demonstrates that their brand of populism still has a strong hold on a continent increasingly concerned about the influx of foreign nationals.

Headline Links: The SVP consolidates recent years’ gains

Background: The campaign trail

Opinion: Europe and immigration

Reference Material: The Swiss government and constitution

Key Players: Christoph Blocher

Related Links: France, Austria and the Netherlands

Jörg Haider and Austria

Some commentators have compared Christoph Blocher of Switzerland’s SVP with Austrian politician Jörg Haider. Haider was the leader of the Freedom Party when it came to power as part of a coalition government in 2000. The election was controversial because of the broadly held perception of Haider as a Nazi apologist.
Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands

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