These are the posters that have symbolised the electoral campaign in Switzerland – yet another racist message from the Swiss People’s Party say critics. Not so, leaders of the UDC/SVP argue, saying it’s just a warning about the security situation in the country. Party chairman Ueli Maurer defended the posters “Black sheep are disturbing factors, which everyone wants to get rid of. It has nothing to do with black and white in a racist sense.”
Immigration is the central theme of the People’s Party, which is demanding stricter conditions for asylum seekers, harsher measures against illegal immigration, and on social aid. A position which has earnt justice minister and leader of the party’s nationalist wing Christoph Blocher a reputation as Switzerland’s most controversial politician.
Often compared by opponents to figures such as France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen and Austria’s Joerg Haider, this successful businessman built his political career on calls for a smaller government and a free-market economy, and by campaigning against immigration and EU membership. Blocher has been a dominant force since the mid-1980s, transforming the People’s Party from a rural movement into a provocative, isolationist force, appealing to many of the hopes and fears of ordinary Swiss citizens.
In a 2003 general election, the People’s Party emerged as the largest in the National Council or parliament. Blocher personally topped the poll in Zurich, claiming a second seat for his party in the seven-seat federal council, a feat he looks to have repeated.