Monday, November 30, 2009

Direct democracy in action

Switzerland held a number of referenda on November 29th. The better-known (indeed, fairly notorious) referendum was the one that proposed forbidding the construction of minarets... This one has reverberated around Europe and the world, and was passed by the Swiss with 57.47 per cent voting for the ban. Only four cantons had a majority against the ban - three of the Suisse Romande cantons (Geneve, Vaud, and Neuchatel) and Basel-City...


A referendum that created much fewer waves was the one that proposed prohibiting the export of arms, and it was defeated by a wide margin (see map of results below).

This blog entry will not be discussing the factors that caused the results, the ramifications of the outcomes of the votes, etc., but will very briefly look at some of the posters used in favor of, and against, the proposition (see below). Clearly the 'anti-minaret' forces won the 'battle of the posters.' The "pro-ban" posters had much more powerful imagery; the "anti-ban" posters were reduced to ridiculing and denigrating those who favored the ban (casting them as delirious or as xenophobes...). This is not to say that the posters caused the outcome, that is entirely the responsibility of those who cast their votes in favor of the referendum. However, from the marketing standpoint the 'anti-minaret' forces clearly carried the day.

posters in favor of the ban:

posters against the ban:
The second referendum, this one a proposal to ban the export of arms, was voted down by 68.2 per cent, with no cantons voting in favor. The posters used in favor of this ban implicitly acknowledged, by their use of very similar imagery, the 'strength' of the anti-minaret visual message (see below).


It is true that any initiative that contains or banks on anti-foreigner sentiment starts off with close to a solid forty percent or more of support, and one can generally count on Swiss parochialism in this matter .. who can forget the "For more security" posters that were used the last time a referendum to restrict the numbers of foreigners failed to pass (but not by all that much), see below:

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