Cross-border issues cloud Geneva election result

Mauro Poggia is the MCG's first-ever Geneva government minister Keystone

Geneva’s new cantonal government has undergone a radical change after the second round of the elections, with the local populist Geneva Citizens' Movement (MCG) taking a seat from the Left in what many media consider a signal for the whole country.

This content was published on November 11, 2013

Founded in 2005, the MCG was able to secure a place at the government table at its third attempt, with lawyer and parliamentarian Mauro Poggia taking the seventh and final seat. The Left was the biggest loser, hanging on to just two ministerial positions instead of the three it had held previously.

The result confirmed the MCG’s result during the cantonal parliamentary election a few weeks earlier, where it won 20 seats – or one in five.

For the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Poggia – a former member of the Liberal and Christian Democratic parties – has finally found a home with the MCG: “a party that made its name first and foremost with its campaign against the so-called invasion of Geneva by French cross-border workers”.

The Zurich daily reckons that the nearby French authorities must have taken the news with “some uneasiness”, but points out that Geneva’s political profile now looks a lot like that of another border canton, Ticino, whose government counts two members of the nationalist Lega dei Ticinese party among its ranks.

“If international Geneva chooses that path, it cannot avoid being noticed,” added the NZZ. “It will not be simple to explain to foreign observers that this democratic election result is not a sign that Geneva wishes to isolate itself from the rest of the world.”

For Geneva’s Le Temps, the MCG’s success should “sound a warning across the country”. 

It is the consecration of “the progress made by a certain type of nationalism at a time when the Swiss will have to vote on difficult issues such as the extension of the free movement accord with the European Union to Croatia, as well as initiatives against immigration and demographic growth”.

For Le Temps, it is also significant that this is taking place in the country’s second biggest economic hub and the one most dependent on open borders.

There are similarities between the MCG and the Lega, says the Corriere del Ticino: “For years we heard in Bern and Zurich that the participation of rightwing populists in the Ticino government was an exception, that everything was fine in the country and Ticino’s difficult relationship with Italy was just a weak excuse,” it wrote.

With Geneva’s election result, it added, Bern will have to sit up and take notice of a very simple message. “Border cantons are paying a high price for the free movement accord with the EU, which has created an imbalance that contradicts the [traditional] federal solidarity.”

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