Will a Swiss female politician steer the country away from populism? 

A member of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) just announced he wants to cut social benefits. This is a symptom of the right-wing populist illness that has begun to affect the country. Can young and rising politician Flavia Kleiner stop it?

Lara Bullens
Lara Bullens NewsMavens, Western Europe
Will a Swiss female politician steer the country away from populism?  - NewsMavens
Flavia Kleiner, WikiCommons

Why this story matters:

Mayor of the Basel region and SVP member Peter Riebli has set out to reduce the costs of social benefits in his canton.

His idea is to link the amount of social aid to the amount of taxes an individual pays, meaning young people and migrants will receive less social benefits than those who have been active in the economy for a longer period of time. 

We shouldn't be confusing the role of paying taxes with that of receiving social benefits. Although they are linked, they are certainly not one in the same. However, the SVP often uses this poor-that-deserve-help vs. poor-that-are-not-worthy rhetoric. This push to end the (already restrictive) welfare system in Switzerland is part of a larger trend that is shaking up the country (and Europe) -- right-wing populism.

Switzerland is often praised for its direct democratic political system. But even if all voices have the chance to be heard, there are winners and losers. Any group can force a vote on an issue by gathering 100,000 signatures over the span of just 18 months, but the SVP has adopted this as a marketing tool –- it requires constant political campaigning. You are competing for people’s attention and their hearts and minds, and to do that you need to be media-savvy and wealthy. 

Luckily, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and her name is Flavia Kleiner, the co-founder of Operation Libero.

Operation Libero is founded on the basis of a pro-immigrant platform and using Swiss democratic ideals as a force for enlightened change. 

It has been successful in leading resistance to voting initiatives by the SVP.

Hopefully Flavia can be a beacon of hope and sway the country in the right direction before 2019, when the next national election, a vote on the limitation of freedom of movement and a burqa ban vote will all take place. At the same time.

Details from the story:

  • According to Flavia Kleiner, “Populism is like lead. It suffocates society and blocks out the light.”
  • Barbara Steinemann, another member of the SVP based in Zurich, backed his idea and claimed that: "An Eritrean migrant family that has just arrived in Switzerland should not be entitled to the same amount as a 60-year-old Italian who worked here for forty years."
  • 23 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons have decided to follow the CSIAS’s (Swiss Conference of Social Action Institutions) recommendations
  • The CSIA estimates that the minimum necessary to 986 francs per month for a single person and up to 2386 for a household of five persons
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