A black and white election? Switzerland goes to the polls this month in a general election that could seriously alter the future course of the nation--or not, depending on your political outlook.

Author:Ledsom, Mark
Position:POLITICS
 
FREE EXCERPT

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

According to Ueli Maurer, president of the populist right-wing Swiss People's Party, the October 21 vote will see Switzerland decide between "freedom or socialism, traditional homeland or multiculture, security or criminality ... Western values or Islam".

The People's Party has never shied from dramatic headlines or colourful phrases, however, and more neutral observers say October's political showdown may not be quite as significant as Maurer would have us all believe.

"I think they always want to make out that the next election coming up is the most decisive one yet," says political analyst Andreas Ladner. "Of course they want to tell everybody once again that it is hugely important whether they vote left or right--all the time keeping as many votes as possible away from the centre."

Polarisation

In 2005 the People's Party stunned their more established rivals by becoming the biggest faction in the House of Representatives, gaining 11 seats to win 55 seats in total in the 200-strong assembly. The campaign was not without controversy as one of the party's regional branches grabbed national headlines with a poster campaign claiming the Swiss were becoming "more and more the negroes of Europe".

Having succeeded in polarising voters four years ago at the expense of centrist and centre-right rivals in the Christian Democratic and Radical Party, it is perhaps unsurprising that the People's Party has chosen to tread similar ground this time, supporting controversial referendums to ban the building of minarets in Switzerland and force the expulsion of foreigners who commit crimes--along with their entire families.

The latter idea was backed by another ambiguous poster campaign depicting three white sheep grazing on a Swiss flag and happily booting out their sole black colleague.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The poster, urging voters to "create security", was promptly labelled as racist by human rights groups, political opponents on the left and even the United Nations, which demanded an official explanation from the Swiss government.

'Well-known phrase'

"The 'black sheep' is a well-known phrase in Switzerland and just about every family has a black sheep hidden away somewhere--so there is no way this is a question of skin colour," People's Party spokesman Roman Jaggi told Swiss News in August.

"It is simply a campaign against those who break the law or plunder social security, and it is backed not just by our Swiss supporters but...

To continue reading

REQUEST YOUR TRIAL