In high turnout, Swiss vote to curb immigration

In high turnout, Swiss vote to curb immigration

The measure, which requires the government to set an upper limit for foreigners, was supported by 50.3 percent of voters, the government said at a press conference in Bern. Voters in the cities of Zurich and Basel and cantons in western Switzerland opposed the measures, while those in rural German-speaking cantons and the Italian-speaking region of Ticino backed it. …

In the run-up to the vote, the initiative “against mass immigration” pitted companies small and large against the euro-skeptic Swiss People’s Party SVP, the biggest in the lower house of parliament. Corporations argued they need top talent from around the world to maintain their competitive edge, while critics, many of them members of the SVP, said the flood of newcomers is leading to worse working conditions, crowded trains and a housing shortage.

“It’s an economic and foreign policy defeat,” said Christian Levrat, a member of parliament’s upper house for the Social Democrats. The economic elite “allowed a state of affairs where people felt the losers” of the open borders, he said.

The vote also risks creating a rift between Switzerland and the EU, its biggest trading partner. The decision to open the borders 12 years ago was negotiated as part of a package of agreements that allow Swiss companies access to the common market, the government has warned.

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“That’s the open question — one doesn’t know what the EU will do,” said Andreas Ladner, professor of public administration at the University of Lausanne. “The EU has indicated that the initiative violates its free movement of people and won’t be tolerated.” …

Voter turnout in Switzerland is generally about 40 percent. It was 55.8 percent today, the government said. That’s one of the five highest participation rates ever, according to Claude Longchamp, head of pollster gfs.bern said.

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