SVP sparks dispute over racism

8th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Swiss People's Party caused a dispute Wednesday after calling French commuters "scum" and beginning a campaign against minarets.

Geneva -- Switzerland's biggest political party caused a French-Swiss dispute and accusations of intolerance on Wednesday, after it called cross-border commuters "scum" and began a separate campaign against minarets.

A French mayor said he would sue the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) over an advertisement it published in a Geneva newspaper that criticised thousands of French workers who cross the border daily to work in the Swiss city.

The half-page campaign adverts for regional elections on 11 October claimed that a planned cross-border commuter railway would provide "transport for the scum of Annemasse," a French border town.

"The SVP has really crossed the red line. It's lurching into a xenophobic approach that borders on racism, even a call to hatred," the Mayor of Annemasse, Christian Dupessey, told AFP.

The town is a suburb of Geneva, from which about 60,000 workers commute to work in the city.

Dupessey said about 20,000 of them were Swiss.

Swiss Socialist Party politician Rene Longet said the advert was caused by rivalry with a local party, the Geneva Citizen's Movement (MCG), which campaigned on cross-border workers and jobs.

"It's complete populism; it's really, really shocking," he added.

MCG leader Eric Stauffer recently said Geneva would become "a dump for 2.9 million French unemployed."

The dispute began as some cities banned SVP's campaign poster for a November referendum on a proposal to ban the construction of minarets.

The poster depicts a woman in a black burqa in front of a Swiss flag covered with missile-like black minarets, underscored by the word "Stopp".

Switzerland's Federal Commission against Racism said Wednesday the poster campaign insulted the Muslim minority and could "threaten public peace" and "feed prejudices".

"This is equivalent to defamation of Switzerland's peaceful Muslim population," it added in a statement.

Several city authorities asked for the commission's guidance on whether to display the poster on billboards.

Authorities in two cities, Geneva and St Gallen, allowed it to be posted, while Basel and Lausanne banned the posters.

Lausanne's city government said in a statement that the poster generated "racist, disrespectful and dangerous" images.

More than 310,000 of Switzerland's 7.5 million residents are Muslims.

The SVP gained the largest share of the vote, 29 percent, in the 2007 general elections.

It caused controversy with its campaigns on immigration and relations with the European Union over the past two decades.

Pascal Sciarini, a political analyst at the University of Geneva, said many Swiss may be used to right-wing attacks.

"The result is catastrophic, it legitimises xenophobic and racist culture at home," he added.

AFP / Alexandra Troubnikoff / Expatica

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