A controversial initiative to automatically deport criminal foreigners from Switzerland is losing support. But the outcome of the February 28 vote remains open, according to political experts.
A final opinion poll also saw support dwindle for a second road tunnel through the Swiss Alps.
The latest survey, commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company, was carried out eight days ago and published on Wednesday. Pollsters of the leading GfS Bern institute interviewed more than 1,400 citizens from around Switzerland.
The poll found 46% were in favour of the proposal by the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, with opponents on 49% and 5% of respondents undecided. Supporters have lost five percentage points over the past month. For details see the graphic.
“There’s been a broad campaign by civil society against the initiative,” says GfS Bern director Claude Longchamp. “The no camp has begun to stir up emotions, using similar tactics as the conservative right has done so successfully in the past.”
Notably voters with close links to the centre-right now appear to reject the initiative, according to the poll.
However, the race remains open, despite statistical evidence for a rejection, according to Longchamp.
“The initiative can potentially win a majority. The last days of the campaign and turnout will be decisive.”
The proposal wants to apply to the letter an initiative to deport foreign criminals convicted of certain crimes, leaving no discretion for judges. Supporters argue parliament watered down the initial proposal, ignoring the will of voters in November 2010.
The GfS Bern research and polling institute interviewed 1,411 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country for the second and final nationwide survey ahead of the February 28 vote.
Swiss expatriates are not included in the poll.
The telephone interviews took place February 5-13.
The margin of error is 2.7%.
The survey was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company, and was carried out by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute.
Support also dropped for another highly controversial issue to come to a nationwide vote at the end of the month. Plans by parliament to build a second road tunnel through the Gotthard still have a 17 percentage point majority.
However, the poll found opponents, mainly from the left and environmental groups, winning ground over the past month.
“This is rather unusual for a proposal which has the backing of the government and parliament,” says political scientist Martina Mousson.
The issue received broad coverage by the media, giving opponents a boost, Mousson notes. “The outcome of the vote remains open,” she adds.
The 17km Gotthard tunnel is Switzerland’s main north-south thoroughfare in the Alps. It is used by about 17,000 vehicles daily.
The existing road tunnel opened for traffic in 1980 and needs an overhaul. The government and parliament agreed to build a second parallel tube, but a broad coalition of leftwing parties and environmental groups has forced a nationwide vote. They doubt whether the authorities will be able to keep a policy with single lane, one-directional traffic.
Supporters of the new tunnel say a second tube is needed for safety reasons, as well as for the economy and the population in the southern Swiss region.
Tax and financial speculation
An initiative by the centrist Christian Democratic Party, to put married couples on par with non-married partners, has lost 17 percentage points compared with a first poll in January. The margin between supporters and opponents has been reduced to 15 percentage points.
The new survey found the initiative still has the support of 53% of respondents. But it could fail at the ballot box if the trend continues, according to Longchamp.
Opponents argue that only a limited number of couples would benefit, while the state would suffer a considerable drop in tax revenue.
As for a leftwing initiative to ban financial speculation with foodstuffs, the verdict appears to be clear.
Opponents have a 23% lead. “It got off to a bad start and will end even worse,” says Longchamp.
Turnout in the first nationwide vote this year is expected to be clearly above average at around 55%.
February 28 vote
Four separate issues feature on the ballot sheet on February 28:
A proposal to implement to the letter a rightwing initiative aimed at deporting criminal foreigners.
A plan by parliament to build a second road tunnel through the central Swiss Alps.
An initiative to end fiscal discrimination against married couples.
An initiative by an alliance of leftwing groups to ban financial speculation with foodstuffs.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch