The rightwing Swiss People’s Party has clearly shown its campaigning prowess ahead of next October’s general election, according to a political analyst.
Georg Lutz of Lausanne University told swissinfo.ch that the party is “setting the pace” and is ahead of all other parties.
Unwelcome on Saturday in the city of Lausanne for security reasons, the People’s Party knew once again how to hit the headlines by holding a delegates’ conference in an open field in wintry conditions near Gland in western Switzerland.
Fresh from its victory on November 28 when a majority of Swiss backed its initiative to expel criminal foreigners, the party approved a number of ideas on how the country should deal with foreigners.
Among the ideas put forward were that foreigners who wish to reside in Switzerland should pay a deposit of several thousand francs when they enter the country. The party also wants to leave the Schengen area, which has no internal border controls.
In another move, it wants to see former Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher sit on a working group set up by the government that will put forward ideas on how to put the expulsion initiative into practice.
The party also set the record straight about holding its open-air meeting near Gland.
“The whole of Switzerland saw on TV that the biggest party in our country is not allowed by the government of a canton to have an assembly in that canton,” Ulrich Schlüer from the People’s Party told swissinfo.ch.
“It’s a very dangerous development when freedom to express your opinion is no longer allowed.”
Political scientist Lutz said this view had an effect but was only the prelude to the election campaign.
“At the end of the day it will be like a short story in a long electoral campaign,” he told swissinfo.ch.
There have been many voices in and outside Switzerland since the November 28 vote which say that the deportation initiative will be hard to put into practice because it will violate Switzerland’s obligations in international accords, particularly as regards freedom of movement.
Schlüer said that the will of the people now had to be accepted.
“It does not violate any agreement. There is no human right that a criminal can choose a country where he wants to stay,” he argued.
“Very good solution”
He also thought the People’s Party choice of Blocher to sit on the working group would be a “very good solution” to make sure the will of the people was respected in law.
The People’s Party programme was summed up by Schlüer this way.
“We want Switzerland in the future to remain an independent country with a high degree of self-determination of the people. Neutrality is important and on the other hand we want to show the whole world that Switzerland is a safe country, that we do not tolerate criminality, that we do not tolerate illegal activities in our country.
“I think this message has a very good chance to be successful in the elections.”
Lutz said that the party was “way ahead” of all the other political parties in setting the agenda for next year’s elections.
“They sent a brochure to all households and then they had the campaign on the initiative… they’ve now passed the party programme for the elections and when you look at the media coverage, what do they talk about? It’s the People’s Party again. It is they who set the pace,” he said.
“The People’s Party has a very populist agenda, with issues which are of concern not only in Switzerland but throughout Europe and this will help them. They just seem to be so much better in campaigning.”
Lutz said that the campaigning was based on provocation.
“I think there will be a turning point at some stage if the proposals get too extreme. It will put people off. But there have been many people waiting for this point and it hasn’t come so far, so it’s quite possible that it can continue.
The question is whether Switzerland is in a dangerous political situation at present, with the People’s Party striving to climb above the 30 per cent barrier in October’s elections.
Lutz says it depends on who you ask. “If you ask people from the People’s Party, they’ll tell you they are saving the country. If you ask people on the left, they think the situation is pretty dangerous because it brings further isolation and doesn’t solve any problems. But that’s very much a question of where you stand politically.”
To people outside Switzerland, it may appear that the People’s Party is out-and-out against foreigners, who account for about one in five of the Swiss population.
Schlüer does not agree: “We accept all foreigners who [can] look after themselves, who come to Switzerland to work, accept our laws and have correct behaviour here,” he said.
Swiss People’s Party
The party was formed in 1971 from the merger of the Swiss Farmers, Trade and Citizens’ Party and the Democratic Parties of the Cantons of Glarus and Graubünden.
With a 29% share of the vote, it is Switzerland’s strongest party. The party result in the parliamentary elections in 2007 was the best that any single party has ever achieved. It has 66 seats in parliament.
The People’s Party says it is firmly committed to the concerns of its voters. The party stands for an independent, neutral Switzerland, a streamlined state, low taxes, a strong location for business with secure jobs and effective prevention of crime and of abuse of asylum and the social security system.
(Source: The Swiss Confederation: a brief guide 2010)end of infobox
The new party programme is called: Swiss People’s Party – the party for Switzerland.
It is the core message of the party for the federal elections in 2011 until 2015. The party wants to gain more than 30% of votes.
The programme includes the usual party messages: “No” to membership of the European Union, tougher penalties for criminals, prevention of mass immigration and a strong army.
Party delegates demand that Switzerland leave the Schengen area, that the Lötschberg rail tunnel be further developed and that there are tougher laws against those people who have no valid identity papers.
The party’s president, Toni Brunner, said the programme was approved on Saturday by 453 votes to nil.end of infobox