Three of Switzerland’s four main political parties have launched an unprecedented joint attack on the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, ahead of Sunday’s votes.
In full-page advertisements in Swiss newspapers, they denounced the party’s descent into gutter politics.
Political observers say the move marks a further erosion of Switzerland’s long-standing tradition of consensus politics.
Swiss politics has been in transition for several years, following the rise of the People’s Party.
The shift to the right in last year’s parliamentary elections led to the People’s Party gaining an extra seat in the seven-strong cabinet, upsetting the so-called “Magic Formula” that had been at the root of Swiss politics since 1959.
“For several years now, political movements have been abusing freedom of expression,” stated the advert, which was also signed by the presidents of two smaller parties.
“False associations, whimsical figures, unprincipled defamations and hateful advertisements spread a climate of fear and hatred that nothing can justify. . .
“The signatories of this appeal are sometimes adversaries, but they all belong to parties that have built modern Switzerland since 1848, based on dialogue and mutual respect.”
The signatories called on the Swiss public to vote on Sunday in favour of two proposals—opposed by the People’s Party—aimed at easing naturalisation restrictions.
The appeal follows the publication of highly controversial adverts opposing the moves by groups linked to the People’s Party.
One advertisement claimed that Muslims could make up the majority of the population by 2040, while another showed a Swiss identity card with a picture of the Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden.
Another showed dark-skinned hands grabbing Swiss passports.
Emanuel von Erlach, a political researcher at Bern University’s institute of political science, told swissinfo that the joint newspaper appeal marked a new development in Swiss politics.
“It is not new in Switzerland for one of the major parties to try to position itself against the others for tactical reasons,” he said. “The People’s Party has been doing this for years, but it is not the only one.
“What is new, though, is that the other parties have come together in this form, with the publication of a joint full-page advert.”
Enough is enough
“Possibly what has changed is that the latest campaign by the People’s Party has been particularly dirty, and many people right across the political spectrum have just had enough,” he added.
However, von Erlach pointed out that there was a strong element of political manoeuvring on both sides.
The appeal was signed by the presidents of the three oldest members of Switzerland’s power-sharing government, made up of the centre-left Social Democrats, the centre-right Christian Democrats and Radicals, and the People’s Party.
The other two main signatories were the presidents of the Green Party and the Liberal Party.
A spokesman for the People’s Party dismissed the cross-party appeal as a late attempt to make up lost ground before Sunday’s vote.