Monday, October 8, 2007

Emergency Bells! Immigration, Black Sheep and Swiss Rage

"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.

Pascal Lauener/Reuters

A protest against backers of the rightist Swiss People’s Party ended in clashes and tear gas.

Lukas Lehmann/European Pressphoto Agency

Christoph Blocher, the justice minister and the driving force in the rightist Swiss People's Party’s, addressing a crowd in Bern.

“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."

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