Political rights

Political rights are not a tool for social inclusion

Demi Hablützel is the president of the youth wing of the SVP of the canton of Basel-Stadt. In this opinion piece, the author, who is a law student, justifies the opinion of the majority in Switzerland that political rights should belong only to Swiss citizens.

This content was published on September 5, 2022 – 09:00

Swiss nationality is acquired either by descent – we get it from our parents (jus sanguinis) – or by naturalization. Citizenship or nationality comes with political rights. These are the right to vote and eligibility. Which means, in a (democratic) country, to be a political member of society, actively or passively.

Recent events make us reflect on the factors that have led to crises at national level, in Europe and worldwide. With Switzerland in mind in particular: how should our democracy be shaped in the future? And how far should political participation go so that we can deal with crises or prevent them through democratic structures, working together – as a country or as a team?

SWI inclusion series

Democracy is going through its greatest crisis since World War II and the Cold War.

From a longer term perspective, this is due to the authoritarian and autocratic trend of the past 15 or so years.

In the short term, it’s because of the coronavirus pandemic and since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Resilience is a key element in the debate on how to manage this multi-faceted crisis: democracies must build their resilience and robustness “from within” in order to be better able to ward off threats.

In this SWI swissinfo.ch series, we focus on a principle of democracy that has so far hardly figured in the debate on resilience: inclusion.

We feature people fighting for “true inclusion” – full inclusion of all major minorities. We will also hear the point of view of the opposition, which knows that the political majority of the country is behind.

End of insertion

Here, an option to discuss is inclusion, seen as a path from exclusion to integration. Inclusion is an idea that we often hear today in politics and in society. The term inclusion seems to evoke a form of society in which everyone participates and benefits without barriers. That is, regardless of any standard or individual effort to be or become a valid part of society.

Direct democracy as a guarantee of success

It sounds quite moving and noble from a social and ethical point of view, but it has its problems.

Activists who debate these crises demand stronger democracy and greater opportunity for every individual to participate in the political process. A stronger democracy? More robust than ours here in Switzerland? I beg your pardon?

A stable democracy and direct participation of the people in the political process are of course central, and this is one of the reasons why Switzerland is a paradise compared to other countries in the world. Without genuine democratic structures, little matters. The situation in many countries of the world is too well known to require a more detailed description.

In short, Switzerland is a model of success and direct democracy is the guarantee. It allows all citizens to participate in political (and therefore also economic) decisions in the short, medium and long term in order to shape our future.

Part of it is being a good loser in referendums and elections, accepting the will of the majority. This is often difficult to do. You just have to admit, as in the world of sport: sometimes you lose – sometimes the other even wins!

Typical migratory society

And yet the demand is heard again and again from left-wing parties and environmentalists for foreigners residing here to be integrated into the political process in Switzerland with a minimum of obstacles. Even before naturalization. Better integration, then full inclusion, would be the result, they say. The idea would be for people to participate and benefit fully, regardless of their culture and nationality.

In Switzerland, we have a typical society shaped by migration and, therefore, dynamic population growth. Emigration and especially immigration are part of everyday life.

Use naturalization opportunities

The consequence is that about a quarter of our resident population is unable to participate in the political process. The left parties see this situation drastically: these people are excluded from our society, they say.

This raises the question: is the right to vote for foreigners what we need? Is the jus sanguinis outdated approach? Would have soil juice, giving citizenship based on place of birth, isn’t it more up to date? In my opinion, there is no doubt that foreigners are excluded from our political process by the status quo. They are, of course.

The question is rather: why don’t they all take the chance, which our law already offers them after a certain time, to take Swiss nationality? If that’s really what they want. The options are there, and for the most part with more than reasonable conditions. Not all, I agree. I can definitely consider changes for some.

Democracy means that everyone has the same opportunity to realize their aspiration to self-determination and to participate in the formation of their community and the state.

Deserved reward for integration

Neither the soil juice principle nor right to vote for foreigners will lead to integration. Integration is primarily a matter of self-will and the use of all individual resources within the social context in which they find themselves. Political rights should therefore not be seen as a tool for integration. They should be the well-deserved reward at the end of the personal integration period. Being born and growing up in Switzerland are not sufficient conditions for successful integration.

With soil juice, citizenship is an automatic process. The United States, for example, introduced it to encourage immigration. Does Switzerland really want it too? We, who have no problem with immigrants from anywhere in the world?

Replacement jus sanguinis with soil juice would run counter to the objective of reasonable control of immigration and citizenship policy in the real (and not subjective, ideological) interest of Switzerland.

No chance in direct democracy

At the local and cantonal levels, but also at the national level, the left and Green parties continue to put forward the right to vote for foreigners as a referendum issue. Yet he has no chance with the people and is still resolutely rejected.

What is the motivation behind this? Is this supposed to be a simple way to get more voters for left-leaning green policies, which, supposedly at least, are socially progressive? Is there any hope that many foreigners who are not yet integrated will not really understand these left-wing green policies and will be bamboozled by the misleading label “socially progressive = foreigner-friendly”?

Because objectively – as we have seen here – Switzerland would not derive any benefit from soil juice.

Or to put it bluntly, why a reward before the effort? Why political rights before integration?

So it’s obvious: political rights granted too soon do not guarantee the kind of inclusion that would really benefit Switzerland and its people.

Adapted from German by Terence MacNamee

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