The 60,000 French citizens who cross the Franco-Swiss border to work in Geneva are coming to terms with the success of a populist right wing party in the city’s cantonal election on Sunday.
The Geneva Citizens movement, which fought the election under a “Geneva and Genevans first” banner, argued a direct link between the French cross border workers and the high unemployment rate in the city, which is running at seven percent, compared with the national average of 3.9 percent. The party’s president is Eric Stauffer: “For a party that has only existed for five years to make such progress has never been seen before in the history of the city. This is the response that ordinary people wanted to deliver to the political classes.” The Citizens Movement added eight seats to its existing nine to become the second force in Geneva’s decision making body. The Swiss People’s party, the usual home for the disaffected right, lost out dropping two seats. Only the Liberals have more. Some believe the anti-foreigner tone to the campaign was low on facts. Francoise Chuard is a Swiss journalist: “The anti-cross border workers message went down well, but the numbers are incorrect, there are 265,000 jobs in Geneva with an active workforce of just 220,000.” Among the more traditional parties there is a great deal of unease about the tone and language of the campaign, which they believe promoted xenophobic policies. Renaud Gautier is a leading Liberal: “We are seeing the emergence of a Fascist discourse. It is clear that the GCM gains its inspiration from the politics of Italy and Germany in the 20’s and 30’s.” Despite the success at cantonal level many believe it will be difficult for the movement to make an impact on the Federal Government where the delicate balancing of alliances and coalitions is the name of the game.