DEEPLY shocking or highly effective, or even both? The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) relied on a winning slogan in their ‘No to a 10million Switzerland’ pamphlet, and emerged as the big winners in Sunday’s national elections with a 3 per cent swing. The Green Party, rolling out more of the same old eco-politics, were the big losers, with a 4 per cent drop.
Not altogether an earthquake, but it confirms a steady overall shift to the right in Swiss politics. Turnout was marginally higher, and while a record number of women stood for election to the 200-seat House of Representatives, the successful 77 represent a drop of 8 per cent on the previous 84.
Clearly immigration was the big issue among voters. While the SVP took a no-nonsense stand on this, to the extent of illustrating their flyers with blatant photographic warnings, the Radical-Liberals and left-orientated Greens (12 seats down in total) misjudged the public mood with their emphasis on free movement for migrant workers, at a time of perceived full employment, with employers even laying workers off.
In tandem with this, the ‘green wave’ has lost much of its appeal, in spite of Swiss enthusiasm for ecological issues. Climate strikes, even at a time of extreme weather events, offer few solutions to voters struggling to make ends meet. The hard-hitting actions of climate and anti-oil protesters have begun to prove counter-productive, causing anger and confusion in place of growing commitment.
English voters, presented with alarming images of flimsy inflatables conveying endless queues of third world ‘asylum seekers’ on to the beaches, have long been aware of MPs’ empty promises throughout the ‘conservative’ years. Now here in Switzerland, the sudden chaos of Lampedusa’s influx of North African migrants into our southern neighbour Italy has quickly brought asylum politics right to the forefront, and created an unmissable opportunity for the SVP.
Asylum applications are up 43 per cent on this time last year, and this, together with the arrival of 65,000 Ukrainian refugees, highlighted the SVP message for a growing number of voters. The party refused to mince their words, even though the Federal Commission against Racism was quick to criticise. Their message sat well with the growing disquiet throughout the West about waves of migration and economic uncertainty.
Domestic commentators agree that this is a historic moment in Swiss politics, now that the Centre has overtaken the Radical-Liberals as the third political force in the country. The incumbent Foreign Minister Ignacio Cassis, frequent visitor to the EU and global organisations, will not be removed from office, in line with Swiss protocols, even though he ranks lowest in popularity of all ministers. In addition, the President Alain Berset has announced he will retire earlier than expected, no doubt pre-empted by an accumulation of problems arising since the Covid-19 ‘crisis’.
Meanwhile foreign media have not hesitated to publish their regrets at Switzerland becoming the latest European country to embrace right-wing populism. The Financial Times was quick to compare this shift to what is happening in Italy, Austria, Germany and Finland. Germany’s Die Zeit lamented SVP opportunism with its ‘Hit the Foreigner’ message. But Switzerland, already boasting a population comprising 30 per cent immigrants, feels entitled to take a cautious, more conservative view while ‘the world’, according to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, ‘is burning and there is great uncertainty: parties that demand something from citizens are not in demand; those that promise security win’.
The MSM would say that, wouldn’t they! But the Swiss media is much more nuanced, pointing out that this wasn’t a landslide, and the SVP failed to gain a majority in the House. What they do agree on is that climate politics has called for far too many sacrifices while failing to deliver concrete plans acceptable to voters. The Tribune de Genève said: ‘By lecturing everyone, the Greens have lost their way.’
The recent by-elections in England are a different story altogether. Keir Starmer claimed that Labour’s record-breaking wins were a game-changer, and certainly his candidate in Mid Beds overcame a Tory majority of 24,664 to win the seat for the first time, while in Tamworth there was a 23.9 per cent swing to Labour, the second-biggest ever since the 1945 election. The rout was so extreme that the humiliated Tory candidates fled the scene without even waiting to listen to the victory speeches.
Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns wrote on social media: ‘Voter apathy is evident yet again, low turnout – 20k in Tamworth, 24k in Mid Beds.’ In other words, Labour didn’t so much win, as the Conservatives blew it big time.
But ‘voter apathy’? More like disgust and disillusionment. The public has all but given up on politics and these results have changed nothing. Not that the delusional Keir Starmer would notice. The very low turnout in the by-elections shows faith in the current system has already collapsed. The reality is that politicians and the State have utterly disenfranchised huge swathes of the public from our so-called ‘democracy’, and the state refuses to deport foreign criminals over ‘human rights’ concerns.
Yet while the statistics of immigration are shocking – almost £10million per day spent on hotels for people who have entered the country illegally is but one – the issue of illegal immigration is still taboo for many. In face of the huge and alarming pro-Palestinian rallies across the UK and the capitals of Europe, will October 7 prove the wake-up moment it seems to have been in Switzerland?