A rightwing poster campaign has been launched four weeks ahead of a vote on making citizenship easier for immigrants. A poster appearing in railway stations this week features a woman in a burka and the slogan: “Uncontrolled naturalisation? No to facilitated naturalisation”.
The poster is the latest offering by Goal, the Swiss advertising agency behind anti-foreigner and anti-Muslim propaganda used by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party in previous nationwide votes. The agency’s best-known image is of a white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag as part of a campaign on deporting foreign criminals.
The Financial Times recently dubbed the head of Goal, Alexander Segert, “the advertising guru of Europe’s new right”.
In an interview with the newspaper, Segert defended the agency’s work. “The most controversial campaigns we did for the [Swiss People’s Party] led to much higher voter turnout. It’s much better that people get all red in the face and then go and vote than if they stay calm and stay at home,” he said.
The latest poster campaign could enflame what has been a relatively quiet debate over the issue of easier citizenship procedures for so-called third-generation foreigners. The Swiss will decide on the issue on February 12.
The poster was commissioned by a committee against the initiative, spearheaded by People’s Party parliamentarian Andreas Glarner. “The burka is a symbol of a lack of integration,” he told the 20 Minutes freesheet on Monday. “Radicalisation can even be observed in Muslim youth who were born here.”
Supporters of the initiative have called the new poster a “dirty campaign”.
“The burka has nothing to do with people who could benefit from facilitated naturalisation,” Rosmarie Quadranti from the centre-right Conservative Democratic Party told 20 Minutes.
The political right has warned that easing the process of gaining citizenship could encourage grandchildren of people who are poorly integrated in Swiss society – even jihadists – to apply for Swiss nationality. On the issue the Swiss People’s Party is fighting against not only the government but also all other major political parties, the cantons, cities as well as the business community.
An estimated 24,600 foreigners currently are eligible for the eased procedure, but experts say only a fraction of them are likely to apply.
Votes on citizenship are usually highly emotional in Switzerland. Three previous proposals to facilitate naturalisations have failed over the past 35 years.
In a poll carried out by the leading GfS Bern research institute ahead of February's vote, three out of four respondents said they would approve the constitutional amendment.