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Elections


Parliament shifts to the right







The leaders of Switzerland's seven main parties analyse the outcome of Sunday's elections (Keystone)

The leaders of Switzerland's seven main parties analyse the outcome of Sunday's elections

(Keystone)

Switzerland's two main parties on the right are the winners of Sunday's parliamentary elections. The strong showing could have an impact on reforms of energy, social security and tax issues, as well as the make-up of the seven-member government.

The conservative right Swiss People’s Party made large gains in the House of Representatives, increasing its share of the vote to 29.4% from 26.6% - winning an additional 11 seats, according to final results published early on Monday.

It is a record result for Switzerland's leading party, which is known for its anti-immigration stance.

"Voters seem to have understood that Switzerland faces a serious refugee crisis," said party president Toni Brunner.

The Radicals gained 1.3% to attain 16.4% of the vote.

The leftwing Social Democrats hung on to remain Switzerland's second biggest party with 18.8%, up 0.1% on 2011, but with three fewer seats.

The results show the combined forces on the right, winning a slim majority of 101 seats in the 200-seat House of Representatives. 

Run-off elections in the Senate are necessary in 12 of the country’s 26 cantons, since there were no outright winners.

Defeated centre 

The main losers are the Greens and small centrist parties who had made significant steps forward in the last elections four years ago.

Swiss expat

Tim Guldimann has become the first Swiss living abroad to be elected to parliament. The former Swiss ambassador to Germany was a candidate for the Social Democratic Party in Zurich.

Registered Swiss expats can take part votes and elections, but there is no seat reserved in either parliamentary chamber. Between 2001 and 2003 two parliamentarians lived in France. But at the time of their election they were Swiss residents.

“The combined gains for the parties on the right are a clear shift and parliament might become more polarised,” said political analyst and GfS Bern director Claude Longchamp.

Magdalena Martullo-Blocher, a daughter of Switzerland’s rightwing figurehead Christoph Blocher, caused an upset by winning an additional seat for the People’s Party in the house.

Several long-serving parliamentarians on both the right and the left were voted out.

Despite the slight shift to the right experts do not expect a major reversal under Switzerland’s traditionally stable political system where no single party has a majority and changing alliances have been standard practice for decades.

The following graphic shows the positions of the main seven political parties according to smartvote.ch voting advice platform.

Impact

But the boost for the People’s Party and Radicals could slow Switzerland’s plans to phase out nuclear energy or to reform the state old age pension scheme.

Political pundits say a stronger rightwing camp might also try to block - or water down - decisions on ending Swiss banking secrecy or the automatic exchange of tax information, despite pressure on Switzerland from the international community.

However, it is unclear what impact the losses of centrist parties - and to some extent the left - will have on the political debate over Swiss relations with the European Union.

Ties with the 28-nation bloc have reached a stalemate in the aftermath of voters’ approval in February 2014 to re-introduce immigration quotas for EU citizens.

Except for the People’s Party with its anti-European agenda, no other party appears willing to risk an end to crucial bilateral treaties with Switzerland’s main trading partner.

Elections by the numbers

Elections to the House of Representatives take place every four years in October. A record number of candidates were hoping to win a seat in one the 26 constituencies, including nearly 60 Swiss expatriates.

Women’s organisations had been pushing female candidates in an effort to boost Switzerland’s ranking in an international comparison of elected female members – currently 62 out of the 200 seats in the House of Representatives.

Voter turnout was around 49%, roughly unchanged from the last elections in 2011. This appears to suggest that numerous posters, newspaper advertisements, social media campaigns and personal efforts by candidates have only had a limited impact. 

Migration crisis

Nearly absent during campaigning was a debate on Switzerland’s future ties with the EU. This might also have been in the interest of the government, which is in exploratory talks with Brussels and individual EU member states to break the political deadlock.

The election campaign focused mainly on immigration due to the headlines on the Syrian refugee crisis with tens of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe.

Both the right and the left tried to benefit from the heightened media attention in Switzerland, even though the country has up to now not faced a mass influx of asylum seekers.

The public debate on social security, including a reform of the pension schemes and unemployment as well as the negative impact of the strong Swiss franc on the country’s economy was noticeably less visible.

Money and attention

The 2015 election campaign is likely to go down in Swiss history as the most expensive ever and many critics argued it was largely shallow.

Separate surveys showed both the People's Party and the Radicals not only grabbing most media attention, but also spending three times more money than all the other parties combined for political advertising.

While political stability is widely expected to prevail after the elections, observers are not ruling out a change in the composition of the multi-party cabinet, which is chosen by parliament in December.

The People’s Party on Sunday reiterated its claim for a second representative in the government based on the share of vote and its position as the biggest party.

It had lost one seat in an internal political dispute in 2007, when it excluded some party members who later founded a centrist group, the Conservative Democrats.

swissinfo.ch



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