The World Today for October 20, 2023


Down in the Valleys


Polls show that Switzerland’s right-wing People’s Party will garner the most votes in parliamentary elections on Oct. 22 on vows to address immigration fears, climate activism and “woke” excesses, reported Bloomberg.

That’s though Switzerland avoided the worst economic impacts of Covid-19. Inflation runs at about 2.4 percent. Unemployment is less than 2 percent, a record low, noted France’s Le Monde. With economic indicators being positive, the People’s Party has garnered votes on promises of radical new ideas.

This past summer, for example, it launched a people’s initiative to severely constrain immigration once the country’s total population exceeds 9.5 million, state-owned Swissinfo wrote. The country’s population last year was 8.8 million. Around 24,500 asylum seekers entered Switzerland in 2022, a 64 percent increase compared with 2021. Those figures do not include 75,000 Ukrainian refugees who have a special status as refugees from war.

Adding to the People Party’s fortunes is the weakness of the Center Alliance, one of its main rivals. The Alliance has shrunk since breaking with the center-right, pro-business Free Democrats whose leaders engineered the $3.2 billion deal this summer when Swiss banking giant UBS purchased failing Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse, as CNBC explained. Voters were disgusted when revelations of mismanagement and high bankers’ bonuses emerged after the deal.

Other issues animate Swiss voters, of course. Environmental activists recently interrupted a concert at a Swiss music festival, CNN reported, in an episode that demonstrated the remarkable mindfulness of the director of the Bavarian State Opera, Vladimir Jurowski, who allowed the protesters to speak so the orchestra could continue. Meanwhile, more than 60,000 protesters took to the streets in the capital of Bern in late September to demand tough measures to fight climate change, noted Indian news outlet WION.

The Swiss federal system is unique, the Local quipped. Elected lawmakers vote for members of the Federal Council, a body of seven ministers from different political parties that serves as a collective head of state for a nation that speaks French, German, and Italian. The Swiss presidency, added Reuters, is a revolving post that each member of the council holds for one year.

This year, in addition to rising fears about too many foreign newcomers seeking safe haven in the Alps, the stakes at the ballot are a bit higher. Incumbent Swiss President Alain Berset, who also served as health and interior minister, is leaving the council after 11 years.

Switzerland will do OK.

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