Swiss newspapers were united in delight and relief on Monday after voters emphatically rejected a rightwing initiative to automatically deport foreigners who commit certain crimes.
“The no to the terrible enforcement initiative is a yes to a friendly Switzerland. A Switzerland of people rather than passport holders. A Switzerland of common sense and heart. We can now be a little prouder of this country than before,” wrote tabloid Blick.
“The most pleasing and important thing about the powerful no is that the [Swiss People’s Party] failed in its attempt to talk Switzerland into having an identity that it doesn’t have. The People’s Party needs latent xenophobia for its policies, Switzerland doesn’t need that.”
On its front page Blick had a collage of some of the country’s famous and unknown immigrants under the headline “Thank you Switzerland!”
Although the so-called enforcement initiative was only one of four issues on which the Swiss cast their votes on Sunday, it was the one which had seen the most coverage – at home and abroad – and on which the newspapers focused on Monday.
“The result is a humiliation for the Swiss People’s Party, which had to admit defeat in its core area of foreigners,” wrote the Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich.
“It was the craziest, most passionate, most important vote campaign for years. And the result was 58.9% no. It’s hard to overestimate this no. A lot was at stake with this initiative – politically as well as privately. Politically, whether the Swiss state should be radically rebuilt. And privately, whether 25% of the population [who don’t have a Swiss passport] should be legally demoted to second-class citizens.”
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) agreed. “Foreigners living in Switzerland can breathe again. They’re not going to be banished into the ghetto of a two-class justice system,” it wrote.
The NZZ said a decade-long trend had continued: “voters continue to argue over the correct policy for foreigners but reject extreme illusory solutions such as the enforcement initiative.”
Der Bund in Bern said a clear majority of voters had “resisted the temptation to let off steam against criminal foreigners and their families”.
“The instinct for what our rule of law can tolerate is intact. And the public’s trust in judges and parliament much greater than the People’s Party always claims,” it wrote.
“The no to the enforcement initiative is a slap for the populists and a victory for common sense and empathy.”
Newspapers agreed in the French-speaking part of the country, where the initiative was rejected by every canton (the only cantons to approve it were Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, Uri, Appenzell Inner Rhoden and Ticino).
Le Temps said voters had preferred level-headedness to “political pyrotechnics”.
Trying to outdo Le Temps, Le Quotidien Jurassien said voters had delivered a “heavy blow to the nationalist shepherd who wants to grade his sheep”.
Le Temps and Le Courrier both agreed that not even the “lies”, the “fiddling with the facts” or even the “racist and chauvinist slips” made by the People’s Party during the campaign had fooled people.
However, the Tribune de Genève warned that while the People’s Party might have lost a bit of credibility, it wasn’t weakened and its anti-foreigner message remained powerful.
‘Great day for Switzerland’
The Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich also noted that “of course not everything has changed”.
“Even after Sunday’s rejection, Switzerland still has one of the toughest laws for foreigners in Europe. Parliament is ruled by a solid majority on the political right. The question of Europe remains unanswered. And the next initiatives from the People’s Party machine are already rolling on: tightening the asylum law and getting rid of human rights,” it warned.
“Nevertheless, February 28 will remain in our memories for a long time. Ronald Reagan once said that freedom was never more than one generation away from extinction and that it must be fought for. And today a new political generation fought for its nation, separation of powers and human rights. And it won.”
“It was a terrible day for the Swiss People’s Party and a great day for Switzerland.”