Party political row over fascism slur heats up

A row between two of the parties represented in government has escalated. The right-wing Swiss People's Party has refused to apologise for controversial comments by Christoph Blocher (picture) associating the Social Democrats with fascism.

This content was published on March 17, 2000 - 21:23

A row between two of the parties represented in government has escalated. The right-wing Swiss People's Party has refused to apologise for controversial comments by Christoph Blocher (picture) associating the Social Democrats with fascism.

The president of the People's Party, Ueli Maurer, explained his party's position in a letter to his Social Democrat counterpart, Ursula Koch.

"You will understand," wrote Maurer, "the party cannot distance itself from the pronouncements of the member of parliament, Blocher."

Maurer said his party was surprised by the vehemence of the Social Democrats' reaction. All 34 Social Democratic members of parliament voted on Tuesday to boycott discussions between the four government parties until an apology was forthcoming.

The Radicals have also decided to boycott the next meeting, scheduled for May 18, arguing that the absence of the Social Democrats will devalue the talks.

The row has been brewing since Blocher, the party's most prominent figure, accused the Social Democrats of showing totalitarian tendencies by supporting moves in the European Union to politically isolate Austria.

In the text of a speech mailed to Swiss households, Blocher said the Social Democrats "stand much closer to the Fascist world view than we do."

"The brown hordes were not called National Socialists by chance," said Blocher, referring to the full name of Hitler's Nazis.

Blocher did not make the controversial remarks when he delivered the speech in January, but they were included in the version sent to Swiss households.

The growing acrimony between the left and right in Switzerland has raised concern that consensus politics may be coming to an end.

Julian Hottinger, a political analyst at Lausanne University, believes there is a clear trend towards more confrontation in domestic politics. But he says it is not yet clear whether this is confined to rhetoric, or whether there really are growing ideological differences between the parties.

swissinfo with agencies

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