Swiss Nativist Party Surges Ahead
Capitalizing on widespread fears about immigrants, the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) in October surged forward to take 29% of the votes for the nation's lower house, the best result for any Swiss party since 1919.
The unexpectedly strong showing, which translated into 62 seats in the nation's 200-seat National Council, came after a series of anti-immigrant proposals from the SVP that caused the United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diène, to voice his alarm. Earlier in the year, Diène wrote an official UN report that criticized the "racist and xenophobic dynamic" operating in Switzerland.
The SVP's electoral success is nevertheless not expected to substantially change the makeup of the national government, a coalition of four parties that already included the SVP, whose leader Christoph Blocher was justice minister in the last government. The new parliament will elect ministers in December.
The SVP ran on a simple platform: expulsion of foreign criminals and other immigrants, a continued refusal to join the European Union, and tax cuts.
In the run-up to the vote, the SVP ran campaign advertisements that were attacked as racist. The ads depicted three white sheep standing on the Swiss flag and kicking one black sheep off it, prompting Diène to ask for an explanation from the party. The party also proposed a law to deport immigrant families of children under 18 convicted of a violent crime, drug offense or welfare fraud. That idea was immediately attacked as a modern version of Sippenhaft, the Nazi practice of "kin liability," where entire families were punished for an individual's crimes. The party also began a campaign to ban the building of Muslim minarets in Switzerland.
In 2004, the SVP ran anti-immigration ads depicting black and brown hands greedily reaching into a container filled with Swiss passports. Blocher also has said that he wants to weaken anti-racism laws in order to protect free speech.