Comparative European Politics

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 568–583 | Cite as

How to please voters without alienating friends? Parties, organised interests and advocacy coalitions in Swiss immigration policy

  • Alexandre Afonso
Original Article


This article analyses how and why political parties adopt more restrictive migration policy positions by using Paul Sabatier’s Advocacy Coalition Framework. While a number of studies have emphasised electoral factors alone to explain this anti-immigration turn, this article argues that policies and cooperation constraints with organised interests are also fundamental factors to understand change in party positions about immigration policy. Using the Swiss case as an empirical application, the article shows how parties have sought to accommodate changing voter preferences with longstanding connections with organised interests. Centre-right parties have turned to an ever more restrictive stance on selective aspects of immigration policy (third-country migration, asylum, access to citizenship), however without challenging EU free movement so central for employers. Social Democrats have had to negotiate between the preferences of their middle-class voters keen on multiculturalism and those of trade unions whose base pushes for immigration control.


migration policy Advocacy Coalition Framework parties organised interests Switzerland 


  1. Afonso, A. (2005) When the export of social problems is no longer possible: Immigration policies and unemployment in Switzerland. Social Policy & Administration 39 (6): 653–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Afonso, A. (2007) Policy change and the politics of expertise. Economic ideas and immigration control reforms in Switzerland. Swiss Political Science Review 13 (1): 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Afonso, A. (2013) Social Concertation in Times of Austerity. European Integration and the Politics of Labour Market Reforms in Austria and Switzerland. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Akkerman, T. (2012) Immigration policy and electoral competition in Western Europe. Party Politics, advance online publication doi: 10.1177/1354068812462928.Google Scholar
  5. Alonso, S. and Da Fonseca, S. (2012) Immigration, left and right. Party Politics 18 (6): 865–884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alonso, X. (2012) Le PS commet une grave erreur sur la politique pigratoire. Le Matin 3 April.Google Scholar
  7. Balch, A. (2010) Economic migration and the politics of hospitality in Spain: Ideas and policy change. Politics & Policy 38 (5): 1037–1065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bale, T. (2003) Cinderella and her ugly sisters: The mainstream and extreme right in Europe’s bipolarising party systems. West European Politics 26 (3): 67–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bale, T. (2008) Turning round the telescope. Centre-right parties and immigration and integration policy in Europe. Journal of European Public Policy 15 (3): 315–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bale, T., Gree-Pedersen, C., Krouwel, A., Luther, KR. and Sitter, N. (2010) If you can’t beat them, join them? Explaining social democratic responses to the challenge from the populist radical right in western Europe. Political Studies 58 (3): 410–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cattacin, S. (1987) Neokorporatismus in der Schweiz: Die Fremdarbeiterpolitik. Zürich, Switzerland: Forschungsstelle für Politische Wissenschaft.Google Scholar
  12. Conseil Fédéral (2002) Message concernant la loi sur les étrangers. Berne, Germany: Administration Fédérale.Google Scholar
  13. Cornelius, W.A. (2004) Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Dhima, G. (1991) Politische Ökonomie des Schweizerischen Ausländerregelung. Zurich, Switzerland: Rüegger.Google Scholar
  15. Engeli, I. and Tresch, A. (2005) Analyse des votations fédérales du 5 juin 2005. Genève: GFS/Université de Genève (Vox Analysis).Google Scholar
  16. Fischer, A., Nicolet, S. and Sciarini, P. (2002) Europeanisation of non-EU countries: The case of Swiss immigration policy towards the EU. West European Politics 25 (4): 143–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Flückiger, Y. (1992) La politique suisse en matière d’immigration. In: B. Bürgenmeier (ed.) Main d’oeuvre étrangère: Une analyse de l’Economie Suisse. Paris, France: Economica, pp. 17–26.Google Scholar
  18. Fluckiger, Y. (1998) The labour Market in Switzerland: The end of a special case? International Journal of Manpower 19 (6): 369–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Forster, C. (2012) Müller Bringt Den Freisinn Näher an Die Basis. Neue Zürcher Zeitung 24 October.Google Scholar
  20. Graffenried, V. and Pétignat, Y. (2012) Christian Levrat: ‘le PS est pour une Immigration Régulée’. Le Temps 3 September.Google Scholar
  21. Karol, D. (2009) Party Position Change in American Politics: Coalition Management. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kriesi, H. and Trechsel, A.H. (2008) The Politics of Switzerland: Continuity and Change in a Consensus Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kübler, D. (2007) Understanding the recent expansion of Swiss family policy: An idea-centred approach. Journal of Social Policy 36 (2): 217–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Oesch, D. and Rennwald, L. (2010) The class basis of Switzerland’s cleavage between the new left and the populist right. Swiss Political Science Review 16 (3): 343–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Parti Socialiste Suisse (2012) Pour une politique migratoire globale et cohérente. Papier de position. Bern, Switzerland: Parti Socialiste Suisse.Google Scholar
  26. Petignat, Y. (2012) Le PS ouvre un débat délicat sur les étrangers. Le Temps 7 January.Google Scholar
  27. Piguet, E. (2004) L’immigration en Suisse. 50 ans d’entrouverture. Lausanne, Switzerland: PPUR.Google Scholar
  28. Radicaux-Libéraux, P.L.R.L. (2011) Pour Un Contrôle Pragmatique De L’immigration En Adéquation Avec Les Besoins De La Suisse. Bern, Switzerland: Papier de positions PLR.Google Scholar
  29. Sabatier, P.A. and Jenkins-Smith, H. (1999) The advocacy coalition framework: An assessment. In: P.A. Sabatier (ed.) Theories of the Policy Process. Boulder, CO: Westview, Press 117–159.Google Scholar
  30. Sabatier, P.A. and Weible, C. (2007) The advocacy coalition framework: Innovations and clarifications. In: P.A. Sabatier (ed.) Theories of the Policy Process, 2nd edn. Boulder, CO: Westview, Press 189–222.Google Scholar
  31. SECO (2011) Mise en oeuvre des mesures d’accompagnement à la libre circulation des personnes Suisse – Enion Européenne (01.01. – 31.12.2010). Bern, Switzerland: State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.Google Scholar
  32. Skenderovic, D. (2009) The Radical Right in Switzerland: Continuity and Change. New York: Berghahn Books 1945–2000.Google Scholar
  33. Swiss Federal Statistics Office (2012) Population résidante permanente étrangère selon la nationalité,, accessed 19 May 2014.
  34. Van Spanje, J. (2010) Contagious parties. Party Politics 16 (5): 563–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Vasileva, K. (2012) Statistics in focus 31: Nearly two-thirds of the foreigners living in EU member states are citizens of countries outside the EU-27. Brussels, Belgium: Eurostat.Google Scholar
  36. Vatter, A. (2008) Vom Extremtyp zum Normalfall? Die Schweizerische Konsensusdemokratie im Wandel: Eine Re-analyse von Lijpharts Studie für die Schweiz von 1997 bis 2007. Swiss Political Science Review 14 (1): 1–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zeller, R. (2012) Die Genossen Im Dilemma. Neue Zürcher Zeitung 1 December.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandre Afonso
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political EconomyKing’s College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations