The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) got a surprising shot in the arm with Sunday’s vote to ban minarets in the country. Though it’s been growing rapidly since its 1980s inception, the SVP has had little success in referenda until now, with critics accusing it of racism for its anti-immigrant campaigning, Reuters reports—including the infamous posters showing a white sheep kicking a black one off the Swiss flag. Muslim leaders condemned the vote, and Swiss companies braced for a backlash, the Wall Street Journal adds.
The 53% turnout was unusually large for Switzerland, with a mass of rural voters overwhelming more liberal city dwellers. "It represents a two finger gesture against the towns, foreigners, the powerful, the better educated and the like," said one Swiss analyst. The vote undermines Switzerland’s carefully cultivated neutral image. “This vote is shocking because it took place in a state which advocates secularism and which prides itself on treating all religions on an equal basis,” said one Algerian paper.