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Parliamentary elections Green parties consolidate gains in latest Swiss election poll

Climate demonstration

Climate issues remain a dominant political issue in the run-up to the October parliamentary elections and notably left-leaning citizens said they will vote for women candidates.

(© Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott)

Environmentalist groups have continued to win support while the right looks set to lose ground according to a survey ahead of the Swiss parliamentary elections next month. 

The ‘Green wave’ is still strong enough and there are no other major topics that were able to impose themselves an opinion poll carried out by the Sotomo research institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – swissinfo.ch’s parent company. 

“Those who thought a moderately hot summer in Switzerland would lead to a demobilisation of the Green Party grassroots were proven wrong,” Michael Hermann, director of Sotomo told journalists. 

The Greens are currently at 10.5%, their best result in an opinion poll, while the centrist Liberal Greens progressed to nearly 7%. The gains come at the expense of parties on the right and in the centre. 

Bar chart with strength of Swiss political parties in the House of Representatives
(Kai Reusser / swissinfo.ch)

The right-wing People’s Party remains clearly in the top position with nearly 27%, ahead of the left-wing Social Democrats with about 19% and the centre-right Radical Liberals with 17%. The fourth main party, the Christian Democrats, are racing neck-and-neck with the Greens. 

The most dramatic losses however are likely to be incurred by the centre-right Conservative Democrats, according to the poll published on Thursday – about six weeks ahead of the October 20th elections. 

Main political issues 

The list of the main issues for potential voters has remained stable over the past few months. Climate change and the increasing health insurance premiums appear to be more of an issue than the future relations between Switzerland and the European Union. 

So far, the People’s Party is fighting an uphill battle to mobilise its grassroots, while the other groups hope to benefit from interest in climate change. But it is still too early to say whether or to what extent the Radical or the Social Democrats can win additional support, says Hermann. 

“A decisive factor will be how well individual parties succeed in encouraging their supporters to participate in the elections,” says Hermann. 

So far, neither a controversial poster by the leading right-wing People’s Party nor a belated shift by the Radicals towards a more environmental policy has been able to reverse dominant trends or launch new issues, he adds. 

Overall, Hermann expects a “clear but small shift to the left” in the 200-seat House of Representatives. “From an international perspective, everything is very solid. But for Switzerland this would be seen as a significant development.”

Women and expat Swiss 

The pollsters have also identified an increasing voter interest in electing more female candidates to parliament, following public protests for gender equality in June. 

“This is above a demand by centrist and left-wing voters,” he says, “although the movement saw its peak earlier in the year.” 

Women make up a record 39% of the more than 4,600 candidates in the 26 cantons for the October elections. 

As for the group of expatriate Swiss citizens, they show a clear preference for the Green Party (23%) ahead of the Radicals (18%) and the Social Democrats and People’s Party (16% each) according to the Sotomo online poll, which was carried out from August 19-25. 

Polling details 

The SBC Election Barometer is an online poll by the Sotomo research instituteexternal link in Zurich ahead of the October 20 parliamentary elections. 

It covers the elections to the House of Representatives but not to the Senate.  

The fifth of six surveys is based on valid data from 17,128 respondents, among them 356 expatriate Swiss. The poll was carried out from August 19-25. 

The margin of error is +/- 1.2% according to Sotomo. 

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