Swiss politician’s call to ban dual citizens from becoming MPs sparks anger

A deputy representing the rightwing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), claims MPs who hold dual nationality “don’t represent Switzerland’s best interests”. His comments have sparked anger.

Swiss politician's call to ban dual citizens from becoming MPs sparks anger
SVP politician wants to ban dual nationals from being MPs. Photo by AFP

SVP deputy Andreas Glarner told Sunday’s SonntagsZeitung that he is submitting a proposal to the parliament to make dual citizens ineligible to run for either the National Council or the Council of States — the two chambers that form the parliament.

The announcement follows a dispute that Glarner had in September with another MP, Sibel Arslan, who has both a Swiss and Turkish citizenship.

The two quarreled publicly when Arslan, Green Party member, defended climate protesters gathered in front on the Parliament Building in Bern. 

Glarner insulted Arslan in front of TV cameras, telling her that Switzerland is a nation of law and order, “something that doesn't exist in your country”.

His outburst sparked widespread criticism, including from his own party.

Party member Michael Frauchiger tweeted: “Arslan is an example of successful integration, and you, Andy, are a racist!”

READ MORE: Swiss canton accused of being 'too strict' with residence permits for foreigners 

A number of Swiss MPs have dual nationality, including an SVP deputy, Yvette Estermann, who grew up in the former Czechoslovakia.

“Dual citizenship in the parliament is not a problem”, she said. “It’s not a matter of your passport, but of what is in your heart”.

Another dual-national deputy, Yvonne Feri of Social Democratic Party, who has Swiss and Italian passports, said that she represents the interests of her constituents, “and not of Italy”.

Feri added that the parliament is a reflection of Switzerland, where nearly 25 percent of the population has foreign roots.

According to Rainer J. Schweizer, professor of constitutional law, implementing Glarner’s proposal would be problematic from a legal point of view.

He said a constitutional amendment would be needed to forbid dual citizens from running for national offices.

This could only be decided through a referendum.

And even then, the matter would not be resolved because the ban would conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The exclusion of dual citizens from the parliament would not be accepted because it would violate freedom of expression and the law against discrimination”, he said.

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Danish PM Frederiksen awaits result of coronavirus test

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has been tested for coronavirus and is currently in isolation, the Prime Minister's office confirmed in a statement on Wednesday morning.

Danish PM Frederiksen awaits result of coronavirus test
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The PM attended a meeting alongside Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup at the end of last week. Hækkerup, who said on Tuesday he was experiencing symptoms and awaiting a test result, has now confirmed a positive test for Covid-19.

“The Prime Minister participated in a meeting with the justice minister on Friday October 30th 2020, where all guidelines for social distance etc. were followed,” the government statement read.

“The Prime Minister is currently showing no symptoms pf Covid-19 and will, as far as possible, continue to work via virtual meetings,” it added.

Hækkerup said in a Facebook post that he had a cough and fever but is in good spirits.

Frederiksen, along with several other leading government figures including foreign minister Jeppe Kofod, health minister Magnus Heunicke and finance minister Nicolai Wammen, have also met with Hækkerup and are now in isolation as they await the results of their Covid-19 tests.

“The virus has spread to both parliament and the government. I am in isolation and will be tested. Though I have no symptoms of the disease. Take care of each other,” Frederiksen wrote on Facebook.

A series of ministers, members of parliament and a party leader – Søren Pape Poulsen of the Conservatives – were yesterday confirmed to have tested positive for Covid-19. A number of other parliamentarians have isolated due to suspected contact with the virus and Frederiksen's questions session in parliament was postponed.

The most serious report regarding infected Danish politicians concerns Lars Christian Lilleholt of the Liberal (Venstre) party. Lilleholt, a former minister who is now the Liberal defence spokesperson, has been admitted to the University Hospital in Odense with pneumonia after testing positive for coronavirus and has been given the experimental treatment Remdesivir, he confirmed in a social media post.

READ ALSO: Is Denmark's parliament at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak?

An ex-minister suggested that procedures at the Christiansborg parliament be adapted to prevent the spread of infection.

“Perhaps – very carefully suggested – Parliament should rethink consultations and votes. Not by not having them. But the way they take place. Disease is every man's master,” Søren Pind wrote on Twitter.

The parliament has said it will restrict the number of people who can attend meetings.