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Swiss Election Marred by Racism Charges


Switzerland is going to the polls today to choose a new Parliament for the next four years. The campaign has been particularly ugly, marked by anti-foreigner and racist propaganda. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva that polls predict the right-wing Peoples Party will win the largest number of seats.

The Swiss love their yodelers and they love their cows. But, many do not love the immigrants that now make up about 20 percent of the population of this tiny Alpine country.

With 7.5 million people, Switzerland has the highest percentage of immigrants in its population of any country. This has provided the fodder for, what many people consider to be, the flagrantly anti-foreigner, racist campaign mounted by the Swiss Peoples Party.

The party's campaign poster has incensed many people. It shows three white sheep kicking one black sheep out of the country. Opponents call it racist. But, the Party's charismatic leader, Christoph Blocher, is unapologetic.

"To call that poster racist is ridiculous. The poster shows and everybody understands that we do not accept criminal foreigners in Switzerland," said Blocher. "And, the criminals are really not a race."

But, the U.N. Special Investigator on Racism disagrees. In a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in September, he branded this poster campaign as racist, calling into question Switzerland's reputation as a tolerant society.

The strongest reaction from other Swiss political parties has come from the country's second-largest party, the Social Democrats. Its campaign poster shows three white sheep kicking out a goat with Blocher's face, saying "Butt out, SPP."

The Peoples Party is expected to get about 27 percent of the vote. While this would strengthen its position, experts say it is unlikely to be a major change in the make-up of the parliament, which has been dominated by the four main parties for decades.

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