ZURICH (Reuters) - Leading Swiss right-winger Christoph Blocher has likened the treatment of his Swiss People's Party (SVP), the biggest national party, to that of the Jews in Nazi Germany.
In an interview with the local newspaper, the Zuerichsee Zeitung, Blocher was critical of the campaign by other political parties and media outlets that succeeded in defeating an SVP proposal for stricter deportation of foreign law-breakers in a referendum.
"If all the media and the other parties still have only the goal of slandering, discriminating against and bashing the SVP -- primarily out of envy and resentment -- we're no longer voting about factual issues," the 75-year-old billionaire was quoted as saying in the interview, published on Saturday.
"In this, the referendum campaign over the enforcement initiative reached an unprecedented pinnacle. The fight against the SVP by state media and by (newspapers from) Blick to the NZZ reminded me in its radicalism of the National Socialists' methods against the Jews."
Asked about the comments on Monday, Blocher told Reuters that his comments referred to the Nazis' measures to exclude Jews from society, before the violent persecution that eventually led to the deaths of 6 million European Jews in the Holocaust.
"The comparison of the methods is meant seriously," he said. "Nip it in the bud. Saying this is no cause for regret."
Rival parties and activist groups all mobilized supporters to vote against the SVP initiative in February. In the highest turnout for a referendum since 1992, 59 percent opposed automatic deportations.
The SVP was also the driving force behind a 2014 referendum that has forced the government to propose new limits on immigration, threatening Swiss ties with the European Union.
Under Blocher's influence, the far-right SVP has developed a eurosceptic and anti-immigration agenda that has shaken up the cosy post-war consensual system in neutral Switzerland.
To his fans, Blocher is a heroic defender of traditional Swiss values who has turned a party of farmers and small businessmen into a political powerhouse.
To critics he is a divisive figure whose anti-immigration policies have destabilized a once-safe haven for companies and investors.
(Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Kevin Liffey)