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Over half of Swiss voters oppose a controversial plan by right-wing populists to reimpose immigration quotas for European Union citizens, a poll showed on Friday ahead of a referendum.
Thirty-seven percent backed it and eight percent were yet to make up their mind, the poll by the GfS Bern institute showed.
The figures echoed a survey last month, but GfS said it was too early for opponents to cry victory, given that the proposal had found fertile ground.
The “Stop Mass Immigration” campaign seeks a revival of quotas for EU citizens that were dropped in 2007 by Switzerland, which is not in the 28-nation bloc but has tight economic ties with it.
Passing it would raise the spectre of a clash with the EU because it sets a three-year deadline to renegotiate the rules.
It would also mean a return to red tape requiring Swiss firms to prove they have failed to find a local employee before being allowed to recruit abroad.
The proposal is the brainchild of the Swiss People’s Party, the largest single force in parliament.
It claims the Swiss have lost the right to control their own immigration rules, with disastrous results for the economy and society such as undercutting local workers, driving up rents and land prices, and overburdening the health, education and transport systems.
The poll found that even if a majority oppose the plan, almost two-thirds believe Switzerland should set its rules, and that unrestricted migration hits salaries, rent and transport.
Switzerland’s cross-party government and the majority of parliament reject the plan, saying foreign workers are crucial to economic fortunes of one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
They were joined this week by the Swiss employers’ federation, the country’s business umbrella body, and organizations representing farmers, watchmakers, the hotel, insurance, machine and textile sectors, plus hospitals and the science and IT industries.
The Swiss system of direct democracy gives the public the final say on a host of issues.
Almost a quarter of the eight million residents of Switzerland last year were not Swiss — 3.3 percent more than in 2012, according to official data.
The highest numbers of recent immigrants come from EU nations Portugal, Germany, Italy and France.