Vote was major blow for People's Party

Sunday's vote was three black eyes for the People's Party swissinfo.ch

The Swiss media was unanimous on Monday in saying that Switzerland's biggest political party, the rightwing People's Party, had taken a beating at the polls.

This content was published on June 2, 2008 - 08:57

Most editorialists agreed that the self-designated opposition party had come undone after voters rejected three proposals it had backed, including reintroducing the ballot box for naturalisation procedures.

For Zurich's Neue Zürcher Zeitung, voters gave the People's Party a lesson it shouldn't forget.

"It's not the fact that they lost that should make them think, but rather how, especially for a party that claims to know what the people wants," it wrote.

For the NZZ, by making criminals out of foreigners who want to become Swiss, the People's Party also underestimated voters' capacity to reach a sober, unemotional decision.

For Lausanne's 24 Heures, the votes were a sign of political maturity, while for Fribourg's La Liberté they showed that voters had the wisdom that the People's Party so often like to call upon.

For Zürich's Tages Anzeiger, it was clear that most voters were fed up with the rightwing party's radical approach, which it said did not reflect Swiss reality and people's everyday lives.

"With its campaign [...], the People's Party challenged a majority of voters who want to see the return of one of the virtues of Swiss politics: the desire and the capacity to find compromises," it added.

Lucerne's Neue Luzerner Zeitung sees Sunday's vote as a turnaround. "Voters inflicted a Waterloo on the country's most successful party for the past few years, betraying a political change of mood," it wrote.

Geneva's Le Temps agreed, saying that it was more than a defeat, but also a warning. "This does not mean the party will collapse, but it will leave some traces in the veins of this monolithic structure," it noted.

Spanking

Zurich tabloid Blick, the country's biggest selling newspaper, said that Sunday's vote was a "spanking" for the party's figurehead, the former justice minister and billionaire Christoph Blocher.

Blocher, it said, put his own money on the line to support the campaign ahead of the vote, in an attempt to avenge his eviction from the government by parliament last December.

The Berner Zeitung picked up on the same theme, pointing out that defeat must have been particularly painful for Blocher. "It looks like he has already passed his zenith," it wrote.

The party's decision to proclaim that it was in the opposition after Blocher's eviction seems to have backfired according to commentators.

For 24 Heures, the warning the People's Party has received was directly related to this choice. What it lacks, it said, is a coherent political programme with proposals that can bring together a majority of voters.

However, nobody considers the rightwing party down and out for the count.

For the NZZ, beating two ballots announced by the People's Party against the extension of a free movement of peoples accord with the European Union will be much harder. "The result promises to be much tighter," it wrote.

And for Bern's Bund, foreigners will remain the party's core political theme and its best card to attract voters. Issues such as asylum or gypsies will guarantee the party some future success.

swissinfo, Scott Capper

Key facts

Citizenship: 36.2% yes; 63.8% no

Health reform: 30.5% yes; 69.5% no

Government information: 24.8% yes; 75.2% no

Turnout: 44.1%

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Naturalisation

Foreign residents must wait at least 12 years to be eligible to apply for naturalisation.

Foreigners married to Swiss nationals can take advantage of a simplified procedure, reducing the number of years they have to wait.

Successful applicants must show that they are integrated into Swiss society, comply with Swiss law and pose no threat to internal or external security.

The cantonal and local authorities are responsible for naturalisation procedures, either by public assembly or by a special panel.

In 2003 the Federal Court banned the use of the ballot box to decide on citizenship applications, saying rejected candidates must have a right of appeal.

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Other votes

The People's Party also suffered defeat over the two other issues that came to a nationwide vote on Sunday.

The electorate rejected a proposed reform of the health system aimed at strengthening the role of the insurance sector and curbing health expenditure.

It also opposed a plan to limit the federal authorities' information policy ahead of nationwide ballots.

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