Which nation has the most conservative government?

The most conservative corner of Switzerland

“No-sayers” Canton, that's what they call him. Long-established conservatives and newly arrived neoliberals form a strong, state-critical power in the canton of Schwyz. But the canon has become a little more cosmopolitan.

Schwyz is the nation's “no-sayers” canton. This is not an assertion, but this is what the Federal Statistical Office wrote after the vote on the bilateral agreements with the EU in May 2000. The list at that time shows that the canton of Schwyz has most often said no to the Valais in the federal referenda since 1871. In this respect, it is almost astonishing that the initiative against mass immigration on February 9 in the cantons of Ticino and Appenzell Innerrhoden met with even more support than at the foot of the Mythen, where it was accepted with 63.1 percent. But Schwyz wouldn't be Schwyz if conservative strongholds in the inner part of the canton such as Unteriberg, Alpthal or Vorderthal hadn't delivered majorities between 85.4 and 87.7 percent.

Ausserschwyz is not Zurich

So one might be tempted to speak of Courant normally. It was rather surprising that the Ausserschwyz communities on the upper part of Lake Zurich rejected an opening towards Europe. In Wollerau, Freienbach or Feusisberg, the initiative was accepted with majorities of 56.4 to 60.2 percent. What is even more astonishing, however, is that the SVP referendum just across the canton border in Richterswil and Wädenswil in Zurich was rejected quite clearly. In terms of economic structure, these areas do not differ very much.

So does someone automatically say no when they take up residence in the canton of Schwyz? It is the other way around, says Michael Hermann. “People are moving to the canton who are concerned about low taxes. With their stance critical of the state, these shape the canton's increasingly neoliberal profile, ”says the political scientist. As a longtime observer of Schwyz's political landscape, the former CVP general secretary Iwan Rickenbacher puts it this way: "These people come to the canton of Schwyz because it is what it is." In addition to low taxes, private schools and local recreation areas, they would find other advantages here at the gates of Zurich.

"The newcomers have made Schwyz more urban"

But the massive social change in Ausserschwyz, but also in other districts such as Küssnacht or Einsiedeln, has not remained without consequences. 22 years ago, the canton of Schwyz rejected the European Economic Area (EEA) with 73.3 percent no votes. At the Von Wattenwyl talks, SP parliamentary group leader Andy Tschümperlin explicitly drew the Federal Council's attention to the considerable difference of more than 10 percent compared to the mass immigration initiative. So the canton has become a little more cosmopolitan. "The newcomers have made Schwyz more urban," states the only Schwyz social democrat in the national parliament. He also noticed this in Einsiedeln, where the SP has been growing disproportionately for several years.

But most of the newcomers do not vote left, but right. The low tax rates have mainly attracted people to the canton who want to give as little as possible to the state and generally think little or nothing of state intervention. This attitude fits perfectly with the historically established anti-authority attitude of the Schwyz “indigenous population”. Here one has never thought much of authorities, regardless of whether they are in the Schwyz Town Hall, in the Federal Palace or in the EU headquarters in Brussels. "The fact that the canton of Schwyz has no urban pole in a rural area may have led to the cantonal and federal authorities becoming the real counterpart," Rickenbacher writes in the "History of the Canton of Schwyz".

The accumulation of skepticism against the state based on conservative values ​​and neoliberal «less state ideology» has helped the SVP to achieve a phenomenal upswing since 1990. This was done at the expense of the former majority party CVP, which was previously considered the guardian of the Grail of conservative values ​​in the inner canton. In the course of these shifts, the liberals have also slipped to the right. This is how the FDP Schwyz summed up the no-slogan for railway financing (Fabi), and the majority of those who voted followed it on February 9th.

In the tax trap

Sometimes you get the feeling that a kind of traditional Swiss form of the tea party movement is in charge here. This is most evident in tax policy. The canton of Schwyz is only using 12.7 percent of its existing tax potential. That is less than half of the national mean of 26.7 percent. The dividend tax rate is also record low, with a 75 percent discount. The federal government and most of the cantons leave it at 40 percent.

To put it somewhat polemically: Schwyz attracts good taxpayers, but then leaves them largely unscathed. Compared to the other cantons, Schwyz has become more and more resourceful and pays more and more into the national financial equalization every year, which the government has repeatedly complained about. Now the government wants to take countermeasures and is planning a revision of the tax law, which should bring additional income of 60 million francs, but with which the tax attractiveness should be preserved. In May, the bill comes to the cantonal parliament. Due to the longstanding tradition and developments in recent years, it cannot be completely ruled out that the majority will say no.

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