The Swiss Appear Largely Relieved as Bachmann Renounces Her Citizenship

An anecdotal review of Swiss media and social media suggests that the Tea Party failed presidential candidate will not be missed in Switzerland.

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Then-presidential candidate Michele Bachmann speaks in Iowa. / Reuters

"U.S. Republican Michele Bachmann doesn't want Swiss citizenship anymore," read a headline from Swiss paper Blick on Wednesday. The past week of Michele Bachmann-Swiss citizenship news has been pretty weird even for Americans. But it seems to have been even weirder for the Swiss.


Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and her family, it was recently revealed, have been claiming Swiss citizenship through her husband's immigrant parents. Bachmann became a dual citizen automatically upon marrying her husband in 1978. It only became a story Tuesday due to what appears to have been re-registration as part of her children's claim to Swiss citizenship. After a two-day media frenzy, Bachmann announced Thursday that she was renouncing Swiss citizenship.

"We have enough loonies in our country already."
The town that the Bachmanns were claiming as their home, it turns out, is a tiny parish called Wigoltingen, population 2200, according to the amused Swiss papers. Amusement -- and bemusement -- appear to be the principal reactions from the Swiss and the Swiss media. "I hardly believe Ms. Bachmann would want to get mixed up with the circus in Bern," a web commenter wrote on a Bachmann story Wednesday, referring to the Swiss Federal Assembly. He offered the joking advice that, if she did participate, the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party would be a good fit. A French-speaking commenter on the Tribune de Genève's site had the same idea: "company for Blocher!" the commenter pointed out, referring to Swiss People's Party Vice President Christoph Blocher.

The Wigoltingen parish president Sonja Wiesmann, for one, is reported by Swiss Blick to be just fine with Bachmann renouncing citizenship, having "experienced the past few days as some of the most hectic since her installation in 2009." Journalists from both Switzerland and America inundated Wiesmann with calls in the past few days. "Luckily," she told the paper, I used to be an au pair in the USA and could communicate well." Blick's online readers seem similarly unoffended by Bachmann's renunciation -- even relieved. "It'd be great if all the Swiss expats followed suit," one commented. "Ufff, thank God!" wrote another. "We have enough loonies in our country already." Bachmann's controversial profile in Switzerland was noted even in the driest news reports: "The canton of Thurgau is about to lose one famous or infamous citizen, depending on your view," concluded the Neue Züricher Zeitung.

What about all the waffling? The Guardian reported on Friday that "Bachmann spokeswoman Becky Rogness declined to comment on whether Bachmann's office had any concerns about offending the Swiss."

The Swiss media, at least, don't seem too offended. "That's how life goes," opened Washington correspondent Martin Kilian's article on the topic for Swiss paper Tages Anzeiger. "One day you're Swiss, the next you'd rather not be." The country probably wouldn't have suited her, he joked rather provocatively: "Here, Latinos are called Germans, aren't illegal, and as a result Bachmann wouldn't have been able to insist on their immediate deportation."

Conclusion? No international embarrassment necessary. As one of the most-liked Swiss comments on Kilian's article said succinctly: "I think we'll get over it"
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Heather Horn is a former senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

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