"Hello, Goodbye!" : Framing of the EU-Swiss Relations by the Swiss Parties in 2011 and 2015 Federal Elections

Olga Litvyak

The unexpected positive vote on the Swiss popular initiative "Against mass immigration" in February 2014 deeply affected the EU-Swiss relations and shifted the focus of the agenda for the Swiss Federal elections 2015. The success of the Swiss People's Party, traditional owner of the immigration issue in Switzerland that had launched the initiative, forced other parties to reshape their positions towards the EU-Swiss relations. As the October elections approached and the migration crisis unfolded in the neighbouring EU countries, growing fear of mass migration through the Schengen zone to Switzerland further contributed to the importance of this issue. My paper aims to explore the framing of the EU-Swiss relations in the electoral campaigns 2011 and 2015. I argue that while some parties changed their positions on the issue, the others pursued moderate strategy by changing the framing of the issue. Traditionally, research on elections has focused on parties' ideology, interplay with voters, policy positions, and issues parties address. Framing theory, recently borrowed from the field of political communication, has highlighted the importance of framing as a new dimension of party competition. I test my assumptions using combination of various data (party manifestos, press releases, and parties' and candidates' political ads in the major Swiss newspapers). I identify the positions on the issues and frames using quantitative content analysis. Finally, I present the mechanisms of framing, specifically frame transformation and diffusion, and identify the preferred strategies in addressing the issue in the Federal elections in 2011 and 2015.

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