A reform aimed at tightening asylum laws is poised for approval at the ballot box next month, but a rightwing proposal to introduce a nationwide election of government members appears to stand very little chance.
The final poll on the issues, commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and published ten days ahead of the nationwide vote on June 9, found that 57 per cent of the respondents said they would approve the amended asylum law.
Just under 30 per cent said they would reject the reform. A broad coalition of leftwing parties, trade unions, rights groups and churches have called a referendum to challenge the amendments that both parliamentary chambers passed last September.
The amended law gives the federal authorities increased powers to streamline and speed up asylum procedures.
The reform also scraps the right to apply for asylum at Swiss embassies abroad and explicitly excludes conscientious objectors and deserters.
“We can assume voters will clearly approve the reform,” says Claude Longchamp, head of the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute on Wednesday.
The survey also found that 14 per cent of the more 1,400 citizens polled are still undecided. (For details see graphic)
Compared with a similar poll published at the beginning of May, support for the reform has gained ground over the past few weeks.
There are no significant differences between the country’s linguistic regions, social groups, or between urban and rural areas, according to political scientist Martina Imfeld.
Hardly surprisingly, critics of the government’s asylum policy lean towards acceptance of a stricter law.
A proposal by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party that the seven-member cabinet should be elected in a nationwide ballot, instead of by parliament, is set to be rejected by voters.
Opponents of the initiative have a 41 per cent lead over the supporters, according to the survey. Only 25 per cent of respondents said they were in favour of the constitutional amendment. Fewer than ten per cent are still undecided.
Figures are virtually unchanged compared with the first survey.
Longchamp says the main arguments of supporters, notably mistrust of the cabinet, have not been convincing for the majority of respondents.
He expects a rejection rate of up seven to three against the proposal.
Turnout on June 9 is likely to be average, around 40 per cent.
Longchamp pointed out that both political campaigns have been subdued.
“Only the parties at the opposite end of the political spectrum managed to mobilise their grassroots,” he said.
Longchamp added that the absence of a high-profile campaign could be the result of a general shift away from rightwing populism in Switzerland, similar to developments in many other European countries.
“The political climate has been changing over the past few years. Other issues and pressure from abroad are higher on the agenda in Switzerland,” he said.
He stressed that Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga led a remarkably factual campaign about the highly emotional asylum issue, while the strongman of the People’s Party – former Justice Minister Christoph Blocher – played a relatively low-key role.
However, Longchamp dismissed allegations by the left that a lack of funds prevented a more lively public debate.
The pollsters interviewed 1,413 Swiss citizens from across the country for the second of two nationwide surveys ahead of the June 9 vote.
Swiss expatriates were not included in the poll.
The telephone interviews took place between May 17 to May 25.
The margin of error is 2.7%.
The survey was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo’s parent company, and carried out by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute.
Issue at stake
Voters have the final say on two issues:
Key elements of the latest amendment of the asylum law approved by parliament and implemented in a fast-track procedure.
A proposal to overhaul the election procedure of the cabinet. Government members would no longer be chosen by parliament, but in a nationwide election.
It is the second set of nationwide ballots this year.
At the same time, elections and votes on a variety of issues will take place at cantonal and local level.