I just checked in for a few weeks in Lausanne and found an announcement by the nationalistic UDC (SVP in German) they have started a initiative for a referendum on August 1 (the Swiss national day) to stop mass immigration in Switzerland.
I made some progress in the valuable book Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island by Diccon Bewes, so I’m a bit less worried than I would be as a completed newcomer in this country. Especially after the Norwegian mass murder these anti-immigration parties in Europe are rightfully put in the limelight. But, partly based on Bewes’ book, three observations are needed.
1. The official figure of non-Swiss inhabitants in Switzerland is 22 percent. That sounds like a pretty high figure, but is partly caused by the country’s severe limitations on naturalization. A considerable part of those 22 percent are second, third generation Italians, French and Germans, who would have been naturalized already in a less xenophobic country.
2. Switzerland has a longstanding democratic tradition and its (Swiss) citizens have compared to other countries quite a lot of power in giving their vote in a whole set of different referendums. The number is so huge that most initiatives to hold a referendum do not make it, although the number of signatures you need is relatively low.
3. The SVP/UDC has established itself as an important political power, although it could at this stage only command between ten and twenty percent of popular support. Since Switzerland has a longstanding tradition of coalition governments including all major parties, they might get a seat in government, but their influence would be lower than in other countries rules by simple majority governments.
Having said that: still enough reason to keep an eye on this initiative for an anti-immigration referendum.