Friday, October 29, 2004

Who do the Swiss-Americans want for President?

As election day approaches in the United States, many of the 71,000 Swiss citizens living there say they hope President Bush won’t be re-elected. In the run-up to the presidential vote on November 2, swissinfo contacted some of them to get their views on the past four years in America.

Around 40,000 of the estimated 71,000 Swiss in the US are dual Swiss-American citizens, many of whom say they are fed-up with the Bush administration’s actions abroad.

“I’m not voting ‘for’ a candidate, but rather ‘against’ one,” said Walter Liniger, a music professor living in South Carolina, who says he is “ashamed of his American nationality”. “The worst thing is that Americans don’t know what to do… they are completely disoriented by fear and terror and their incomprehension of what’s going on,” Liniger said.

His comments were echoed by Bernard Nussbaumer, a film producer from canton Vaud who now lives in Dallas, Texas – President Bush’s home state. Nussbaumer says the past four years in America have left him “disgusted and without hope”.

“Half of this country is blind and anaesthetised,” he said. “I don’t think Bush is dishonest or has bad intentions… but I believe his values are fake, that he has caused a lot of damage to the US and that his country isn’t even aware of it.”

According to Matthias Meyer – a Swiss who spent many years living in the US as an executive director at the World Bank – terrorism has catapulted security and foreign policy issues to the top of the election agenda.
Besides being fed-up with US foreign policy, many Swiss citizens and dual nationals living in America are also critical of the Bush administration’s domestic track record. “When it comes to the environment, social issues and civil liberties, like freedom of expression, we have gone backwards by decades,” said Nussbaumer.

Meanwhile, Liniger believes America’s disadvantaged have been “manipulated by fear mongering” and that they are just as likely to vote for Bush as “the rich that have become richer under him”. He also cites an “erosion of the middle class,” which, in his mind, is becoming “more critical and liberal”.

But not all Swiss in the US share Liniger’s opinion. Peter Jordi, a businessman living in New York, is a strong supporter of the Bush administration. “I totally agree with what President Bush has done,” said Jordi, who added that he was happy about the tax breaks granted by the Republicans.

He also said he was in support of US foreign policy and the war against terror. “I know this isn’t how most Europeans feel, but in my opinion, the European way of thinking is defeatist,” said Jordi, who predicts that Bush is certain to win next week’s election.

For his part, Nussbaumer believes a Republican victory wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. “If Bush gets re-elected, the Americans won’t have any more excuses and they will have to make some choices… a little bit like children who have to learn,” said Nussbaumer. “Perhaps it’s better to let the Republican abscess burst… then we can try to heal it,” he added.

But he is sorry to see how deeply the country has been divided by the election. “It’s like a gigantic iceberg splitting in two, with both parties following opposite currents,” Nussbaumer said.

Copyright: Swiss Info

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Switzerland May Lose Euro 2008 Soccer Championship

European football’s governing body, Uefa, has told Switzerland and Austria that they may lose the right to stage Euro 2008 if they cannot provide four stadiums each.

Legal wrangles over rebuilding the Hardturm stadium in Zurich have left Switzerland with only three suitable venues in Bern, Basel and Geneva.

Shame on you, Switzerland, and Zurich, especially. So Zurich wants to be this worldly city, welcoming and open, elegant, trendy and full of fun, and then they can't even have an appropriate soccer stadium?

The small group of inhibitors state the protection of the environment as reason why the stadium could not be built.

Wake up, we are not talking about wide green pastures or a biological garden, here: This is Zurich, Switzerland's biggest city, and some say it is the nation's secret capital. But with the reputation comes responsability and the willigness to deal with large crowds.

Monday, October 04, 2004

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Welcome to the Audioblog!

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT - OP-ED: Magic Formula vs. direct democracy - something's gotta give?

From the other side of the Atlantic, the current cock fight between Swiss Federal Councilmen Couchepin and Blocher looks a lot like a farce. Two of its aspects deserve special mention.

First, Pascal Couchepin has initiated a complete communications desaster. By unwisely rushing ahead with his untempered accusations he does commit the very crime he accuses Blocher of. The Secretary of the SVP, Ueli Maurer, in turn reproached Couchepin of trying to manipulate the people. Ironically, he's right. Maurer could handily spin the attack back on Couchepin, and give Blocher a free ride in publicity. While Couchepin's manoeuver is discussed by experts and the media, Blocher is in the headlines without having to say a single word. Mr. Couchepin's communications strategy behind this remains his secret.

Second, the actual issue of the magical formula of governing vs. direct democracy seems to escape the participants of the controversy around Mr. Blocher's role in the Federal Council. The real question at hand, namely how the Swiss intend to do politics, now and in the future, is blurred by the - not very original - accusations ad personam of Mr. Blocher.

Yet, the talk about "democracy with brakes" versus the "totalitarian direct democracy" reveals one thing: the magical formula is a fragile tool used to tamper the radicality of the principle of direct democracy. The principle of concordance of a representative-elected Federal Council and the sovereignty of the people are at odds.

Something's gotta give: Swiss leaders will have to decide soon, whether they understand themselves as ministers, i.e. servants of the people or as a special caste that knows better how to lead and rule the country. The debate about this better start sooner than later - provided the appropriate means of communications are in place.

What do you think? Let's talk about it!