Monday, October 8, 2007
Immigration, Black Sheep and Swiss Rage
New York Times
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: October 8, 2007
SCHWERZENBACH, Switzerland, Oct. 4 — The posters taped on the walls at a political rally here capture the rawness of Switzerland’s national electoral campaign: three white sheep stand on the Swiss flag as one of them kicks a single black sheep away.
“To Create Security,” the poster reads.
The poster is not the creation of a fringe movement, but of the most powerful party in Switzerland’s federal Parliament and a member of the coalition government, an extreme right-wing party called the Swiss People’s Party, or SVP. It has been distributed in a mass mailing to Swiss households, reproduced in newspapers and magazines and hung as huge billboards across the country.
As voters prepare to go to the polls in a general election on Oct. 21, the poster — and the party’s underlying message — have polarized a country that prides itself on peaceful consensus in politics, neutrality in foreign policy and tolerance in human relations.
Suddenly the campaign has turned into a nationwide debate over the place of immigrants in one of the world’s oldest democracies, and over what it means to be Swiss.
“The poster is disgusting, unacceptable,” Micheline Calmy-Rey, the current president of Switzerland under a one-year rotation system, said in an interview. “It stigmatizes others and plays on the fear factor, and in that sense it’s dangerous. The campaign does not correspond to Switzerland’s multicultural openness to the world. And I am asking all Swiss who do not agree with its message to have the courage to speak out.”
Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, of the Liberal Democratic Party, has even suggested that the SVP’s worship of Christoph Blocher, the billionaire who is the party’s driving force and the current justice minister, is reminiscent of that of Italian fascists for Mussolini.
[On Saturday, a march of several thousand SVP supporters in Bern ended in clashes between hundreds of rock-throwing counterdemonstrators and riot police officers, who used tear gas to disperse them. The opponents of the rally, organized by a new group called the Black Sheep Committee, had tried to prevent the demonstrators from marching to Parliament...
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