ZURICH (Reuters) - Donald Trump’s U.S. election victory, on the heels of Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, was fuelled by voters who feel neglected and shunned by establishment leaders, prominent Swiss right-winger Christoph Blocher said on Wednesday.
Blocher, a top official in the anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party who engineered its ascent to become the biggest faction in the Swiss parliament, said Trump’s win over Democrat Hillary Clinton was a warning to current world leaders not to go over citizens’ heads on issues including immigration.
“People feel powerless against those who rule them, and for them, Trump is a release valve,” Blocher said in an interview. “The unexpected result ... should give pause to those who are in power around the world.”
Next year, the Netherlands, France and Germany - and possibly Italy and Britain too - will hold elections in which debate is likely to be driven by populist parties over issues including immigration.
That was also a central theme in Britain’s June 23 “Brexit” vote to end 43 years of EU membership.
Non-EU Switzerland is seeking to balance demands by voters in 2014 for immigration quotas for EU workers without torpedoing trade agreements with the bloc. Blocher’s party has said alternatives now being considered ignore the will of voters.
“When politicians in Berne refuse to take the vote against mass immigration seriously, it will only lead to a shock like it did in America,” Blocher said.
Blocher said Europe’s responses to immigration amid violent Islamist attacks in France, Belgium and Germany have helped populist political parties including France’s National Front, as well as the Alternative for Germany, gain traction.
“They stand out because they are taking on problems the establishment refuses to tackle. One big question that you have to speak openly about is the immigration from Islamic countries. You can’t just tear down everybody who is critical of this.”
Additional reporting by Paul Arnold; editing by Mark Heinrich