A survey has found the small centre-right Conservative Democratic Party as the main winner two years after the last elections and ahead of the next ballot in 2015. Overall the Swiss continue to favour political stability.
The Conservative Democrats have won an additional 2.3 per cent compared with 2011, bringing them to 7.5 per cent.
They can benefit from disgruntled grassroot supporters across the political spectrum from the bigger parties - the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, the centre-right Radicals and the Social Democrats on the left.
The new political centre, including the Conservative Democrats and the Liberal Greens, has continued to win ground since 2011, according to a report by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation - swissinfo’s parent company.
“The new political centre which was established in the last elections has consolidated its position, while the left-right polarisation prevails. But the heyday of polarisation is over,” says political scientist and research leader Claude Longchamp.
The People’s Party remains the strongest political group with just under 26 per cent, ahead of the Social Democrats, the Radicals and the Christian Democrats. (For details see graphic.)
However, the researchers have found no evidence of a visible shift towards a further polarisation or even a swing to the political right.
The Conservative Democrats have won an additional 2.3 per cent compared with 2011, narrowing the gap to the Green Party with 8.4 per cent.
Immigration issues remain at the top of a list of public concerns.
“This is hardly surprising as the topic is a perennial issue in Switzerland, way ahead of environmental questions, social security and unemployment,” says GfS political scientist Martina Imfeld.
A considerable percentage of respondents in the poll explicitly favoured a closer cooperation between different parties for tackling political problems.
Citizens seem to give most credibility to the People’s Party when it comes to immigration issues, while the Social Democrats do well on social security, pensions and the fight against poverty. The Green Party is considered most competent on environmental issues.
Nearly two out of three citizens have confidence in the government, while 14 per cent, mainly supporters of the People’s Party, do not approve of the seven-member multi-party cabinet.
“Its credibility is intact. None of the current ministers is a flop,” says Imfeld.
Transport Minister Doris Leuthard currently enjoys the biggest support, ahead of the two other female cabinet members: Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga.
Respondents in the survey favour the current political make-up of the cabinet: two representatives each for the Social Democrats and the Radicals, one each for the Christian Democrats, the People’s Party and the Conservative Democrats.
A number of other political studies were published to mark parliament’s midterm.
Political expert Michael Hermann noted that the main parties increasingly seek alliances with other parties from across the political spectrum to push their proposals through parliament.
The Christian Democrats and the Liberal Greens are most successful in forging temporary alliances.
For its part, a survey by the political research network Politools found the People’s Party has remained isolated in parliament while the centre-right is increasingly looking to the left for support.
The student-based Vimentis organisation also published a report. It notes the centre-right Conservative Democrats, the Liberal Greens and the People’s Party as main winners in 2012.
The survey has also identified a lack of interest of young citizens in elections.
“Our findings show a drastic result. Two out of three voters are over 65 of age, while only one in four of those below 40 said they would take part in the elections,” explains Longchamp.
He says the younger generation is no longer using the traditional information channels and is inevitably cut off from the political discussions.
“A broad debate on this phenomenon is welcome, similar to the discussions in the 1990s over possible ways to encourage political participation of the female electorate,” says Longchamp.
Next general election will most likely focus on the political backing for the Conservatives and notably the fate of party member and finance minister Widmer-Schlumpf, according to the pollsters.
The result of the 2015 ballot could also have a major impact on the Christian Democrats which appear to lose further ground.
However, if they formalise their cooperation with the Conservative Democrats they could become the second biggest group in parliament, says Longchamp.
Under the Swiss political system, where the strength of the parties in parliament translates into cabinet seats, a merged new centrist grouping could consolidate its claim to ministerial posts, fending off demands by the People’s Party which had lost its second seat in 2007, or at the expense of the Radicals.
The survey is based on telephone interviews with 2,014 citizens from all Swiss language regions between August 30 and September 13, 2013.
Swiss expatriates were not included in the survey.
The margin of error is 2.2%.
The poll was carried out by the GfS Bern research and polling institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – swissinfo’s parent company.
By Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch