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Professor Oliver Strijbis’s Take on Migrants in Swiss Politics

Professor Oliver Strijbis’s Take on Migrants in Swiss Politics

In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger, the most widely circulating newspaper in Switzerland, Political Science Professor Oliver Strijbis offers an enlightening explanation of why people with foreign roots are underrepresented in Swiss politics. Strijbis explains that people with  an immigrant background tend to have more trouble asserting themselves  within political parties and that this problem extends to countries other than Switzerland. 

In Switzerland, it takes a relatively long time for someone to become a naturalized citizen, which means that migrants  may necessarily start their political career late. According to Strijbis, contrary to popular belief, migrant groups are quite interested in politics. The Alevis and the Kurds are two examples of  migrant groups who remain particularly engaged, and it is no coincidence  that they are represented in the National Council by Sibel Arslan and Mustafa Atici. 

For people who come for economic reasons from authoritarian countries, it is difficult to become actively involved in politics because they are not used to voting and being elected.

Professor Strijbis further elaborates that if more people with an immigrant background suddenly voted in Switzerland, there would be no  marked shifts because it would be restricted to a slight increase for the Socialist Party (SP), and a small decrease for the right populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP). He explains that people from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, or African countries vote less for the SVP because  the party used to frame them as a problem. However, people from EU  countries vote almost identically to Swiss locals, many of whom would  vote for the SVP.

If a general right to vote for foreigners were implemented, Strijbis asserts that more migrants would be attracted to politics because they  would be socialized into Swiss politics already before being naturalized. He shares that research from Scandinavia shows that the earlier migrants can participate in political processes, the higher their turnout later. 

Regarding whether it is positive that dual citizens can sometimes vote in several countries, Strijbis explains that for the  sake of democratic legitimacy, it is generally true that the higher the  voter participation, the better. On the other hand, dual citizenship can be problematic because some can vote in multiple countries, and others cannot. 

The principle of “one man, one vote” is thus invalidated. The decisive question is, therefore, what weight the votes from abroad  will carry. This question also applies to Swiss citizens living  abroad.

Strijbis explains that the right to vote should be linked to whether  someone is affected by the decisions and fulfills duties such as paying  taxes. For Swiss citizens living abroad, however, this is only partly  true. Hence, a restriction would be appropriate pertaining to Swiss  abroad in that one could form a separate electoral district for the  Swiss abroad and distribute proportionally fewer seats in relation to  the number of voters. 

Strijbis concludes that today, the Swiss abroad voting in small cantons sometimes have more influence in elections than a person living in the canton of Zurich.

Professor Oliver Strijbis’s Take on Migrants in Swiss Politics
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