Swiss voters have rejected a proposal by a nationalist party to automatically expel foreigners who commit even low-level crimes, Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported hours after polls closed at noon Sunday.
SRF cited political research group gfs.bern, which projected the measure would be rejected by 59 percent of voters based on partial results from some polling areas.
The outcome comes as a blow to the Swiss People\’s Party that had campaigned for the plan, and a turnaround from opinion polls last year which had predicted it would be accepted.
Under its proposal, the law would have been changed to make expulsion part of the sentence for any foreigner, whether for severe crimes like murder or low-level crimes such as threatening officials or giving false testimony — if they are committed twice within a ten-year span.
A broad coalition of political parties and legal experts came out against the plan in recent months, arguing that it was "inhuman" and would effectively create a two-tier justice system that treats Switzerland\’s two million or so foreigners — about a quarter of the population — more harshly.
The People\’s Party, which campaigns heavily against immigration, had claimed that a law Parliament proposed following a 2010 referendum on the issue didn\’t go far enough because it gave judges room to consider the impact that expulsion would have.
Pascal Sciarini, A university of Geneva political scientist, said lawmakers will still be required to stiffen laws against foreigners who commit crimes following the results of the earlier referendum on the issue that has yet to be applied.
"There will be a law that will be applied that will lead to more expulsions," Sciarini said. There will be a hardening of rules that will be a result of the first initiative pushed by the SVP," he said, referring to the initials of the People\’s party in German.
The federal statistics office estimates that over 3,000 additional foreigners could be expelled based on the pending legislation.
Public debate over the extended plan was unusually fierce by Swiss standards, raising voter turnout.
The People\’s Party\’s campaign posters showed a white sheep atop a Swiss flag, kicking away a black sheep. Opponents of the proposal released an electronic advertisement at major train stations showing a tattered swastika next to a large "No" to the referendum and a list showing "2016 Switzerland" after 1933 Nazi Germany and 1948 in apartheid South Africa.
SOURCE: Associated Press