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Other voices in parliament


Small parties of protest and principle




The small political parties might not count much but their voice is heard in parliament (Keystone)

The small political parties might not count much but their voice is heard in parliament

(Keystone)

In the Swiss parliament there are four small parties with one or more seats. Two of these parties are fighting against immigration and alignment with the European Union. The other two have religious roots. swissinfo.ch asked them about their political agendas.

Beside the seven bigger parties they complemented the political spectrum in the 200-seat House of Representatives over the past four years. But they were not represented in the Senate.

Lega dei Ticinesi

Curbs on immigration, and defence of Swiss sovereignty: these are the important issues in the next legislative term for the Lega dei Ticinesi (Ticino League), which has two seats in the House of Representatives.

“As regards immigration, there are important issues that are outstanding and that need to be quickly resolved in the next legislature: limitation of free movement of people to the ‘local’ labour market, problems of security, and expulsion of foreign criminals,” says parliamentarian Lorenzo Quadri.

According to the hardline party, government and parliament should implement without delay an initiative to curb immigration from the EU approved by voters in 2014, in spite of the rumbles of disapproval from Brussels, for whom the introduction of foreign worker quotas goes against the bilateral treaties.

“If there had to be a choice between the current situation, that, is, free movement of people without limits, and the lapsing of the bilateral accords, we would choose lapse of the accords,” insists Quadri.

Again as regards the EU, the Lega is fighting what it sees as pressure from Brussels to have an institutional agreement, whereby Switzerland would have to agree to adopt European legislation automatically and submit any issues for arbitration to the European Court of Justice.

The League’s other top priority for the next four year term in Bern is defending the identity and interests of canton Ticino.

“Specific problems like cross-border workers, a package for making the most of the accompanying measures, which would at least do something to counteract the negative effects of free movement, and better monitoring of wage dumping,” as Quadri puts it.

Protestant Party

“Equity, sustainability and human dignity”: the political choices of the Protestant Party are made on the basis of these three principles.

“Equity is fundamental for us, especially at the economic and fiscal level, to combat the growing gap between rich and poor”, explains party leader and parliamentarian Marianne Streiff-Feller.

“Sustainability means for us paying attention to what we are going to leave to the next generations, like a clean environment and healthy finances. Human dignity has to determine relationships with all human beings, in particular the old, the handicapped, and all those who need protection,” she adds.

For this party, furthermore, the ethical values of the Bible should be the foundation of society.

Accordingly, the party often takes a different line from the major parties. Open and progressive on social issues, it takes a harder line on protection of human life and the family, and fighting addiction.

The party has almost always had a presence in the national parliament, but it has never held more than three seats in the chambers and never grew into a major party.

As regards the key issues in Swiss politics, the party wants to see the initiative on curbing immigration implemented without endangering the bilateral accords with the EU.

It wants to defend jobs, threatened by the strong franc, but without state financial intervention. It also wants a more active role for Switzerland in dealing with the refugee crisis, and is calling for the introduction of ethical ground rules for Swiss companies operating abroad, to respect man and the environment worldwide.

Movement Citoyens Romands

Neither left nor right, but for the citizen: that is the slogan trumpeted by the Movement Cityoens Romands (Citizens’ Movement of Frenchs-speaking Switzerland), which emerged in 2010 on the initiative of the Citizens’ Movement of Geneva (Mouvement citoyens genevois).

“For every issue, we try to put the citizens in the centre of the debate, when they are often ignored by the other political parties. We want to strengthen popular consultation and thus defend the basic principle of direct democracy. We want a super strong economy, so we can have an effective social system, a redistribution of wealth and thus cohesion between all levels of society,” says Roger Golay, the party leader and its sole representative in the national parliament in Bern.

In Geneva, this recent political formation aims to fight, on the citizens’ behalf, against crime, excessive competition due to globalisation, too much state bureaucracy, and poor use of tax revenue – and most of all, the mass influx of workers from neighbouring France.

The party has often been denounced as xenophobic. “We have nothing against foreigners, but we want immigration controlled, because Switzerland cannot deal with such a huge influx of people from abroad,” argues Golay.

In the national parliament, the party campaigns for a sovereign and independent Switzerland.

Christian Social Party Obwalden

One man, one party, one canton – one might thus describe Karl Vogler’s position in the Swiss parliament.

He is the sole elected representative of his party, and it is a completely independent group. He is also the only representative of his canton in the House: with its 36,000 inhabitants, Obwalden – in central Switzerland - has only one seat.

The party belongs to the category of Christian social parties that emerged to champion the cause of workers and the poor, beginning in the era of industrialisation.

Founded in 1956, this political grouping has had its own evolution, as Vogler likes to recall: “Our party was born from Catholic workers’ groups, to which it remained linked for a long time. Today we are more like a party of the centre.”

In terms of the classification worked out by a newspaper on the basis of the voting record of each parliamentarian, this man is at the exact centre of Swiss politics.

“I work in the name of my party for a strong economy, but taking account of social and environmental issues. Our policy is to seek a balance between the interests of different groups. We can have strong social insurance only if we have a strong economy. On the other hand, we can have a strong economy only if we maintain social harmony and provide rates of pay that ensure a good quality of life and purchasing power,” explains Vogler.

For him, one big priority of the next session will be to decide on the future of relations with the EU, especially as regards implementing the initiative to curb immigration. “Another big priority will be to ensure the funding basis for our social programmes,” he adds.

(The interviews were done in May 2015)


Translated from Italian by Terence MacNamee, swissinfo.ch



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