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Papers see asylum vote as clear victory for Blocher

No room for interpretation here

(swissinfo.ch)

Press commentators say Sunday's ballots on tighter restrictions for asylum seekers and immigrants are a "personal victory" for the rightwing justice minister.

Most editorialists said the result was largely driven by voter anger with perceived abuses of the asylum system, and described the outcome as a slap in the face for the left.

Zurich's Tages-Anzeiger called the vote Christoph Blocher's "biggest win" since he became justice minister, but added that proposals to tighten asylum legislation had always been popular.

The city's other major newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) considered it a "personal victory" for the rightwing People's Party politician.

It said the result was a signal that voters had had enough of what they considered to be "abuses of asylum law".

For the Basler Zeitung the ballot was a "vote on the politics of the justice minister". And Blocher's simple message that abuse of the system had to be stopped carried the day despite vocal opposition from "prominent people in business, politics and the Jewish community".

"Debacle"

The NZZ also described the outcome as a "debacle" for the left, which could not be swept under the carpet.

The tabloid Blick added that the Social Democrats and the Greens could no longer ignore the concerns of the population and had to take them seriously for a change. It said many voters were concerned by the presence of foreigners on Swiss soil.

Lucerne's Neue Luzerner Zeitung said the new laws were a "balanced compromise", but warned that the legislation had to be humanely applied and was to be used only to prevent abuses.

The French-language newspapers were more inclined to bemoan what they see as a tendency to treat immigrants as scapegoats.

"Depressed"

Geneva's leftwing Courrier called the ballot a "slap in the face" and a clear indication of an "unhealthy mindset" on the part of the populace. It added that even the most optimistic human rights activist could not help but feel depressed and that the vote would not help foreigners become more integrated.

Editorialists did not use the word xenophobia in their commentaries. But they did say the result showed how unsure the population felt about changing immigration patterns.

Lausanne's Le Matin said pictures of Africans scrambling ashore in the Canary Islands had stuck in people's minds, and that they did not know how to respond. "They chose to tighten our laws," it wrote.

Geneva's Le Temps pointed out that the vote was a "heavy defeat for the country's intellectual, cultural and religious leaders", whose political influence continues to wane.

The Tribune de Genève for its part warned that any Swiss who thought that foreigners would become invisible were in for a surprise.

Pension fund

Monday's newspapers paid less attention to the rejection of a proposal to prop the state pension fund scheme with the profits of the Swiss National Bank (SNB).

The Tages-Anzeiger wrote that the SNB had emerged stronger after the vote, but added that the pension scheme had been weakened when it needed more support.

Bern's Bund said the result showed the population's scepticism concerning quick fixes for old-age pensions, although it warned that the hardest part was still to come, ensuring the system's long-term survival.

The Blick felt that voters wanted a healthy retirement package, but that "the proposal just wasn't good enough to appeal to them".

swissinfo, Scott Capper

Key facts

Asylum law: 67.7% yes, 32.3% no
Immigration law: 68% yes, 32% no
Pension fund: 41.7% yes, 58.3% no
Turnout: 48.2%

end of infobox

Substance of the new laws:

Asylum applicants who cannot produce identity papers within 48 hours without a credible reason are automatically excluded. Rejected asylum seekers are barred from regular welfare benefits and qualify only for food and shelter.

Rejected asylum seekers who refuse to leave the country face prison terms of up to two years.

The amended law on foreigners limits immigration for citizens outside the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (Efta) to highly skilled labour.

It also aims to encourage integration, in particular by language courses, while cracking down on human trafficking and marriages of convenience.

end of infobox


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