Swiss vote split on reintroducing immigration quotas

ZURICH Sun Feb 9, 2014 8:20am EST

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ZURICH Feb 9 (Reuters) - Switzerland is split on reintroducing immigration quotas, early projections showed on Sunday, as the country broods over a proposal which opponents say could irk multinationals and call into question its accords with the European Union.

The home of Roche, Novartis, UBS and other industry giants which rely on foreign labour, voted 50 percent in favour and 50 percent against capping immigration, according to the latest projections by Swiss television station SRF.

Ten out of 26 Swiss cantons and half cantons had voted in favour of the so-called initiate "stop mass immigration", projections showed.

In order to win the vote, the initiative, spearheaded by the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), must garner a majority of the overall vote, as well as majorities in more than 13 cantons.

A vote in favour, which comes 12 years after a free movement of people agreement with the EU came into force, could hurt the Swiss economy dependent on foreign professionals by increasing red tape and jeopardising bilateral accords with the bloc.

The split is unusual, given the Swiss have a history of voting against proposals they feel could hurt the country's economic success story or threaten competitiveness.

It reflects growing concern among the Swiss population that immigrants are eroding away the nation's Alpine culture and contributing to rising rents, crowded transport and more crime. (Reporting by Alice Baghdjian, Albert Schmieder and Caroline Copley)

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