The issue of immigration is boosting the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, while centrist parties are struggling: these are the main conclusions from the latest barometer ahead of parliamentary elections on October 18.
The People’s Party has gained two percentage points since the previous poll in June, according to the latest electoral barometer commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company, published on Wednesday.
Switzerland’s largest political party thus finds itself with 28% of the vote. In the 2011 elections it ended up with 26.6%.
“The dominant issue at the moment, by a long way, is asylum, and the People’s Party is considered the most competent party when it comes to resolving this,” said political scientist Claude Longchamp, head of the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute which carried out the survey.
He said the latest developments, in particular the solidarity movement growing in Germany and Austria, should not have a major influence (the survey was carried out August 21-29).
“The People’s Party could win or lose 1.1%, but certainly not 5%,” Longchamp believed.
He pointed out that this was the third major influx of refugees seen in Switzerland since the Second World War, after 1989/91 and 1998/99. “In 1999 the People’s Party made the most progress in its history, with a jump of 7%.”
The centre-right Radical Party is also expected to benefit, with its projected share of the vote now at 16.9%, up from 15.1% four years ago.
At the other end of the spectrum, Longchamp is not expecting any significant changes for the leftwing Social Democratic Party. Switzerland’s second-largest political group is on 19.6%, up 0.6% percentage points on 2011.
These votes, however, are probably votes taken from the Green Party, which has been struggling since the environment is no longer the main concern of Swiss voters. In the 2011 elections, which took place a few months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Greens won 8.4% of the vote. This support has now dropped to 7.4%.
Longchamp concluded that the most likely scenario to emerge from the upcoming election was a slide to the right. He pointed out, however, that “a strengthened right is not a majority of the right”.
swissinfo.ch, with input from Daniele Mariani