Billionaire uses ancient martyr to spearhead his march into power
David Charter in Zurich
From The Times
October 22, 2007
A self-made billionaire who compares himself to a legendary hero who was impaled while repelling unwanted invaders led his right-wing party to victory in Swiss elections last night after a campaign marred by rows over racism.
Christoph Blocher, the 67-year-old leader of the Swiss Peoples Party (SVP), is likely to push for a turn as president in the next four-year parliament after his strident anti-immigrant tone won widespread support in the Alpine republic.
As the votes were counted into the night, Mr Blochers party and the left-wing Greens were the significant winners of an election that polarised normally consensual Switzerland and may threaten to shatter its cosy style of coalition government.
An early exit poll predicted that the SVP will have the highest number of MPs, mainly because of a big drop in support for the Socialist Party. The SVP were put on 61 seats, up six, and the Socialists 43, down nine. The forecast gave the SVP 28.6 per cent of the vote, up two points on its 2003 showing.
Mr Blocher made an estimated SwFr3 billion (1.2 billion) fortune by reviving a flagging chemicals company and is equally reviled and admired by the countrys 7.5 million inhabitants. His fervently nationalistic speeches are peppered with references to heroes of Swiss history. Mr Blocher likens himself to Arnold Von Winkelried, a knight who reputedly threw himself on Austrian lances to create a hole in their defences, the crucial turning point in the 1386 Battle of Sempach. Winkelried sacrificed himself for the community. A good politician must also be prepared to sacrifice himself for his country, Mr Blocher said.
Born into a poor family in Schaffhausen, in the north, Mr Blocher was the son of a Protestant pastor. His humble roots made him an outsider in the secretive world of Swiss banking and industry but being shunned by the Establishment seemed to spur his ambitions. Taking control of a struggling company that made plastics for the car industry, he turned it into a multi-national giant. As his business profile rose, so did his political career.
Mr Blocher made his name fighting proposals by successive Swiss governments that were put to the country under its referendum system for major national decisions. He said no to everything, campaigning successfully against United Nations membership in 1986, abolition of the Swiss Army in 1989, sending Swiss troops on armed peacekeeping missions in 1994 and EU membership in 2001. But he could not block a second vote on UN membership, which was carried in 2002.
His chosen political vehicle was the Swiss Peoples Party. Zurich, in the German-speaking sector of Switzerland, became the partys powerbase and criticism of immigration has been a constant theme. The main talking point of the election a poster showing three white sheep booting a black sheep off a Swiss flag was withdrawn before polling day. The SVP maintains that it was illustrating its policy of ejecting foreign criminals, while political rivals described it as clearly racist.
But there are signs of a backlash from within Mr Blochers party. Adolf Ogi, the popular former President, said that the personality cult around the party leader was completely unSwiss. You do not solve the problems of the future with polarisation and naysayers, he said on the eve of polling.
Make way for liberty! he cried,
Then ran, with arms extended wide,
As if his dearest friend to clasp;
Ten spears he swept within his grasp.
Make way for liberty! he cried.
Their keen points crossed from side to side;
He bowed amidst them like a tree,
And thus made way for liberty.
from Arnold Von Winkelried by James Montgomery
Have your say
If only British voters would wake up as well….
j griffiths, manchester, England
Good to see at least one party in Europe representing the interests of the indigenous people.
Neil, Chessington, Surrey
Lugano: over 40% of the population are foreigners.
Switzerland: more than 25% of the population are foreigners.
Past: immigrants where mainly Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Present: over 700'000 balcanian (10% of the population) and
lots and lots of muslims (integrated? I wouldn't say really…)
Lugano: in some areas of the city the swiss are a minority.
Swiss children are 3-4 on a class of over 20.
Schools where balcanian are predominant are problematic schools. Violence arising in terms of quantity and quality, even among very young people (sexual crimes in primis).
Come and have a careful look here before criticize our right going vote!!! And, I assure you, until now we tolerated because swiss people are open and not xenophobes.
But too much is too much, even for us.
Good people are always wellcome, even for SVP. But it's time to give a strong message to those who come here to take advantage of our welfare system (and they are constantly increasing) and to commit crimes.
Redaelli, Lugano, Switzerland