Sunday’s referendum results were largely as expected, with the Swiss public accepting two of the five proposed initiatives – both supported by the federal government – and rejecting three.
The public voted by 66.8 percent to accept a proposal to speed up the often lengthy asylum process, a reform supported by justice minister Simonetta Sommaruga but put to the public vote after opposition from the SVP.
The SVP had said that speeding up the asylum process would make the country more attractive to “fake refugees” and migrants drawn by financial aid and free legal help.
The yes vote is a serious snub to the SVP, Swiss media reported on Monday, and the second time this year that Switzerland’s largest party has been defeated on issues of immigration, after an initiative to expel foreigners who have committed minor crimes was rejected in February.
The rejection finally puts an end to an SVP campaign that was “embarrassing for the political community as a whole” said the Tribune de Genève.
The party had “failed to explain to its electorate the reason why it opposed a text aiming to speed up the asylum process,” it added.
“On paper the SVP is the biggest loser of this election,” said Le Temps.
“The defeat is all the more cruel since it [asylum] is a major theme for Switzerland’s largest party, which grooms its electorate by proposing stricter and stricter initiatives”
The party’s defeat on the issue comes at a time when the numbers of asylum seekers coming to Switzerland has actually dropped in recent months.
In April 1,748 asylum requests were placed, down 12 percent on the previous month, according to the Swiss migration office (SEM).
“To speak of ‘chaos’ at a time when monthly figures are actually falling was hardly convincing,” said Le Temps.
The party also lost out in two other areas.
The public voted in favour of a change to Swiss law on medically-assisted reproduction to allow genetic testing on embryos in certain circumstances, for example to detect a serious genetic illness that may be carried by the parents, and to give couples with fertility problems the best chance of having a healthy baby.
The traditionally conservative Appenzell rejected the proposal which was accepted overall by 62.4 percent and was previously approved by parliament.
The SVP opposed that initiative but supported another, on transport taxation, that was rejected by a significant majority.
Also on Sunday the public rejected an initiative proposing that public service companies such as Swiss federal railways (SBB) and the post office should be non-profit making.
Lastly, the controversial proposal to introduce a universal basic income was rejected by a large majority, of 76.9 percent.