GENEVA - A majority of voters have approved a referendum supported by the Swiss government and most major parties to make it easier for the grandchildren of third generation immigrants to acquire citizenship.
A Swiss television presenter gets set to announce the results of the day’s voting at the start of a two-hour special debate and analysis of the outcome.
Of the three referendum on the ballot, the issue of easing citizenship rules for young immigrants was clearly the most contentious.
It was vigorously opposed by the right wing Swiss Peoples’ Party, which waged a campaign warning that any relaxation of the rules governing Swiss citizenship would attract potential Islamic extremists.
Concerns by supporters of the initiative increased as the Party’s controversial poster campaign began to make inroads on what had been a substantial lead by the yes campaign.
So, it was with some relief and jubilation that Margret Kiener Nellen, member of the Social Democratic Party, celebrated passage of the initiative.
She said she thought the opposition did not win because its campaign poster, which featured a woman wearing a niqab urging voters to reject so-called uncontrolled citizenship, went too far. She said people did not buy this argument because only a relatively small group of people, fewer than 25,000, stood to gain from the measure.
Citizenship in Switzerland is determined by the nationality of the parent. Unlike the United States, a child born in the country does not automatically become a citizen.
Obtaining Swiss citizenship is a long, arduous process. A person must reside in the country for 12 years, must be fluent in one of the country’s four languages and has to submit to a costly, close examination by the cantonal and local authorities.
Under the new rules, applicants between the ages of nine and 25, who have at least five years of schooling and a valid residence permit, can submit a formal request for citizenship to the federal government.