Home » We vote in Switzerland, and there too we talk about immigration

We vote in Switzerland, and there too we talk about immigration

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We vote in Switzerland, and there too we talk about immigration

Today, Sunday 22 October, elections are being held in Switzerland to renew the National Council and the Council of States, the two branches of the federal parliament. THE polls say that the relative majority party, the Democratic Union of the Center, will increase its consensus, approaching 29 percent and the best results in its history. Despite its name, the UDC is a right-wing, nationalist and conservative party, with radical components. The central theme of his electoral campaign was the fight against immigration and the most identifying proposal is a constitutional reform that by law limits the population of Switzerland to 10 million people until 2050: today the inhabitants are 8.9 million.

The polls instead predict a defeat for the Greens, the party which in the last elections, in 2019, had been the biggest surprise, going from 7 to 13 percent of the votes: a notable success, in a country where vote variations are normally much more limited and the political landscape almost stable.

Sunday’s vote will likely change the balance of power in parliament, but should not affect the composition of the federal government. In Switzerland many powers are guaranteed to the individual cantons, twenty-six in total, each with its own form of administration. The federal government is not supported by the parties that together manage to form a parliamentary majority, but is born from the cooperation of all the major political formations.

The Swiss federal parliament, located in Bern (EPA/ANTHONY ANEX)

Specifically, the custom is for the four major parties to divide the seven ministers: two each for the top three, one for the fourth. In addition to the Center Democratic Union, the outgoing government includes the Swiss Socialist Party, which should remain the second force (18 percent in the polls), the Radical Liberals and the Center Alliance. The polls show that these last two parties are very close, around 14 percent of the vote, and if the vote confirms the forecasts it means that the Radical Liberals could lose a minister to the centrists.

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The 200 deputies of the National Council and the 46 of the Council of States (elected to represent the cantons) will vote on the new government on 13 December. They will then meet four times a year, in sessions that will last three weeks each.

Electoral turnout in Switzerland is usually quite low, around 45 percent, and federal elections almost never have particular relevance in public debate. At this time the most discussed topics were immigration and the cost of health insurance, which is growing rapidly.

An election poster of the UDC near Morges (EPA/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT)

Currently a quarter of Switzerland’s population was born abroad and in the last year immigration has grown by 26 percent compared to the previous year, but without apparently being able to meet the manpower needs of Swiss companies and commercial enterprises. In fact, 40 percent of employers say they are unable to find the employees they are looking for: unemployment is at 2.1 percent, among the lowest levels ever, and part of the jobs are occupied by the so-called ” cross-border workers”. They are people from neighboring countries (Italy, France, Germany, Austria), who work in the country but live abroad.

Switzerland, although not part of the European Union, has in fact joined the Schengen agreements for the free movement of European citizens.

Despite these needs of the Swiss productive sector and despite the fact that asylum seekers constitute only 6 percent of new arrivals, the Democratic Union of the Center (which, as mentioned, is not of the centre, it is of the right) has built a strong anti-immigration rhetoric, with very direct slogans and presenting a contrast between images of family groups observing the green Swiss mountains and others of crowded European reception centers for sub-Saharan migrants.

The proposal of the Democratic Union of the Center was therefore to reform the Constitution in order to limit by law the Swiss population to a maximum of ten million inhabitants until 2050: the result would be achievable for the UDC by severely limiting entries into the country . According to the Swiss economic research center KOF the quota of 10 million will instead be exceeded in 2035. Lo same institute underlines how without immigration the working-age population would decrease by 13 percent in 20 years, also putting the pension system in crisis.

The other topic of debate is linked to the sharp increases in prices and in particular in health insurance, which is mandatory for all Swiss citizens: in 2023 they increased by around 6 percent, in 2024 the increase will be a further 8.7 percent, the highest since 2010. Even with these premium increases, insurance companies claim they are unable to cover healthcare costs, which are the most expensive among the 38 member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

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In recent months, the media and television have extensively covered the complex rescue of the Credit Suisse bank, which was close to bankruptcy: however, the case did not lead to an overall reform of the country’s banking and financial system.

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