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Immigration and the radical right in Switzerland: ideology, discourse and opportunities

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Skenderovic's article focuses on the relationship between the issue of immigration and parties of the radical right. Immigration serves as the primary focus for these parties, mirroring their exclusionist world-view in which nationalism, neo-racism and xenophobia are the most prominent features. As powerful competitors in most European party systems, radical-right parties have played an influential role in the struggle that has taken place over the way in which immigrants have been defined and perceived in the last twenty years. Their strategy of presenting immigration as a contentious and menacing development appears to bring some electoral success, since voters support these parties on account of their immigration agenda and their view of immigrants. As Skenderovic shows, Switzerland serves as a particularly interesting case study. Since the 1960s, radical-right parties have used the issue of immigration to appeal to voters and have contributed to the fact that the theme of immigration has remained at the centre of the Swiss political stage. With their exclusionist agenda, Swiss radical-right parties have sought to present immigration as a threat to the country. Instruments available in the system of direct democracy have allowed effective opportunities for these parties to expound on immigration-related issues and to have considerable influence on immigration policymaking. In addition, the alleged danger of √úberfremdung, 'over-foreignization', a longstanding discursive frame in Swiss immigration policy, has been consistently evoked by radical-right parties seeking to bolster their anti-immigration campaigns. By primarily drawing attention to the supply side of political mobilization, the Swiss case conspicuously demonstrates the significant roles that a favourable institutional and discursive environment and a concise immigration agenda can play both in the efforts of radical-right parties to gain popular support and in pushing through their demands on issues related to immigration.

Keywords: Swiss political parties; Switzerland; immigration; immigration policy; nationalism; neo-racism; radical-right parties; xenophobia

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-05-01

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