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UKRAINE'S PARLIAMENT PASSES BILL TARGETING RUSSIAN CHURCH AND SWISS ELECTION SHIFTS TO THE RIGHT

October 19-25, 2023 | Issue 37 - EUCOM

Jayde Dorland, Sophia Ritscher, Barbara Batycka

Jennifer Loy, Editor; Evan Beachler, Senior Editor


Coat of Arms of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)[1]


Date: October 19, 2023

Location: Ukraine

Parties involved: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy; Ukraine; Ukrainian government; Ukrainian Parliament; Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP); Orthodox Church of Ukraine Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP); Ukrainian citizens; pro-Russian actors in Ukraine; Russia; Russian government; Russian special services

The event: In its first reading, Ukraine's parliament approved a bill that potentially outlaws the UOC-MP. The measure seeks to prohibit the activities of religious organizations that promote war propaganda or defend Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The bill had 267 votes in favor, 15 votes against it, and two abstentions. Government officials stated that the bill is not about religion or the church but rather about safeguarding Ukraine's national security. The UOC-MP has faced allegations of aligning with the Russian government during the conflict in Ukraine, as well as involvement in “subversive activities by Russian special services,"[2] which the church's leadership has denied.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • The second reading of the draft bill will very likely receive the same level of support as the first, which almost certainly increases the probability of Zelenskyy passing the bill as constitutional law. The Ukrainian government will almost certainly enforce the law to contribute to the protection of Ukrainian citizens, very likely attempting to diminish the presence of pro-Russian actors and influence across the country. Passing the ban will very likely halt the distribution of propaganda and arms through the UOC-MP but will unlikely significantly reduce Russian attempts to distribute influence across Ukraine.

  • The UOC-MP will likely explore legal avenues to challenge the ban and engage in legal battles to protect its right to operate as a religious organization. The church will very likely raise concerns about the broader implications for religious freedom in Ukraine, reiterating their independence from the Russian government. The Ukrainian people will very likely perceive the church’s potential actions to defend religious freedom as an attempt to deflect from their concerns regarding the church’s continued support for Russia.

  • The Russian government will very likely use this ban as propaganda for the oppression of ethnic Russian people by Ukraine, likely justifying their military actions. Russian media will almost certainly portray Ukraine as an aggressor towards Russian religion and freedom of expression, likely aiming to increase nationalism and support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Orthodox Russians and practicing Russian descendants in Ukraine will very likely condemn the ban, likely leading to an increase in support of UOC-MP and deterioration of UOC-MP's relationship with Ukraine.

Date: October 23, 2023

Location: Switzerland

Parties involved: Switzerland; Swiss Parliament; the Swiss Lower House, the National Council; the Swiss Upper House, the Council of States; Swiss government, the Federal Council; Swiss citizens; Swiss voters; right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP); Environmentally conscious parties like the Greens and the Liberal-Greens; migrants and asylum seekers in Switzerland; social media platforms; social media users

The event: Following the Swiss election, the SVP, with a strong anti-immigrant and anti-climate action stance, became the largest parliamentary fraction. The party gained nine seats compared to the previous 2019 election, giving them a total of 62 out of 200 seats in the National Council. Pre-election polls revealed that Swiss voters were concerned about three issues: rising healthcare costs under the country's mandated, free-market-based healthcare system, climate change, and refugees and immigration. Environmentally conscious parties lost seats, however, a recent referendum supported large-scale actions to combat climate change. The election outcome reflects a political shift to the right in Europe.[4]


Analysis & Implications:

  • SVP’s seat gain will almost certainly impact future climate change policies, likely motivated by citizens' weakened interest in climate change and populist party focus. The party will almost certainly aim to block future policies on greenhouse gas emissions, likely making it harder to accomplish significant change in the next four years. While it is unlikely that climate change will be fully overlooked in law drafting, given the citizen referendums and presence of green parties in the National Council, SVP will likely influence political debate and public discourse on sustainability.

  • SVP will very likely increase its anti-immigration rhetoric following its electoral success, allowing right-wing sentiments to develop in public topical discussion. SVP will very likely multiply its number of anti-migrant and asylum seeker social media posts, likely increasing follower interactions and redistribution of targeted dialogue. Social media users re-sharing SVP posts have a roughly even chance of exposing new audiences to anti-immigration discussions, potentially giving traction to right-wing rhetoric. Heightened public sympathy toward right-wing campaigning will likely increase the chance of anti-immigration policies receiving sufficient votes in upcoming referendums.

  • Switzerland’s unique electoral system of power-sharing and direct democracy through referendums will very likely safeguard Switzerland’s stance on international politics and decision-making from SVP’s right-wing policies. The country’s political system almost certainly ensures a balanced government, very likely limiting the influence of any single party and its political beliefs on foreign affairs. Swiss voters will very likely initiate referendums on important policy topics, likely protecting Switzerland’s status quo as a neutral nation and very likely preventing a national shift to the right of the political spectrum.

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[2] Parliament passes bill on banning Russia-affiliated religious organizations in first reading, The Kyiv Independent, October 2023, https://kyivindependent.com/parliament-passes-bill-on-banning-russia-affiliated-religious-organizations-in-first-reading/

[3] Ibid

[4] A Swiss populist party rebounds and the Greens sink in the election. That’s a big change from 2019, AP, October 2023, https://apnews.com/article/switzerland-election-final-results-legislative-elections-e677e20c461301d046f249dbebf7c77a

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