Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s decision to sidestep implementing immigration quotas to avert a conflict with the European Union probably won’t face a national plebiscite because the political scientist challenging the policy can’t get enough support to trigger a vote.

Nenad Stojanovic, a academic at the University of Lucerne, has been trying to gather the 50,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on the December bill that officially implements a 2014 initiative on newcomers. Instead of numerical limits that would have been in breach of an economically important set of agreements between Switzerland and the EU, parliament passed measures that give locals a leg up in the jobs market. Swiss law gives him 100 days for the task, and the deadline is April 7.

“A miracle would be needed for us to make it,” he said via telephone on Tuesday. “We just didn’t have the financial and personnel resources to contact the people in so short a period of time.”

The anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party -- or SVP -- vociferously opposed the law, dubbed “immigration light,” saying it purposefully disregarded the will of the electorate, who supported quotas in the plebiscite three years ago. Yet the party didn’t back Stojanovic’s referendum bid.

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A recent survey also suggests the approach taken by parliament is supported by the majority of Swiss, with 75 percent of respondents in a NZZ am Sonntag poll backing the “light” immigration bill.

Stojanovic said he had received 5,000 francs ($5,068) in campaign contributions and would publicize details of how many signatures he has collected next week. Blick newspaper reported on March 1 that he’d gathered just 12,000 signatures a month ahead of the deadline.

“Now you can say the people had the possibility to sign, and if not even 1 percent signed that implicitly means people are OK with parliament’s solution,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Catherine Bosley in Zurich at cbosley1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at fobrien@bloomberg.net, Zoe Schneeweiss, Dylan Griffiths

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