Election poll sees minor political shift
As the campaign for the October 23 parliamentary elections nears the finishing line, the political centre looks increasingly fragmented, according to a survey.
The rightwing Swiss People’s Party is seen clearly ahead of the Social Democrats on the left, but neither camp is likely to make major gains or losses compared with 2007, says political scientist Claude Longchamp of the leading gfs.bern research and polling institute.
The latest poll, carried out among citizens in all parts of the country 18 days before election day, found two small centre-right parties winning ground mostly at the expense of the Radicals – the driving force of modern-day Switzerland in the 19th century.
All other parties are likely to remain stable and the rank order at the top is expected to be unchanged since 2007. (For details see chart)
However Longchamp cautions that there are still cards to play in the remaining days ahead of October 23.
“The ability to mobilise voters is crucial in the final phase,” said Longchamp. “The bigger the party is the more important that is.”
He notes a growing interest among potential voters in taking part, not least as a result of increased media coverage.
Election turnout is expected to be about 49 per cent, a rate similar to the last elections in 2007.
Longchamp believes the People’s Party is most likely to do best to mobilise its grassroots as it has already seen its support increase by nearly one per cent within the past month.
He points to attempts by leaders of the party to launch topics with high popular appeal, including a call to halve the salary of cabinet ministers and an alleged plot by the government to relinquish Switzerland’s sovereignty on legal matters in talks with the European Union.
The group being targeted is the rural population and below-average salary earners, according to Longchamp.
But whether the People’s Party will be able to reach the 30 per cent mark remains to be seen. In 2007 it clinched 28.9 per cent with a margin of more than nine per cent over the Social Democrats.
The People’s Party election campaign is considered the most effective by respondents of all political affiliations, says political scientist Martina Imfeld.
In addition the rightwing group can rely on a tough organisation and a group of several thousand volunteers.
Observers also point out that the People’s Party has by far the largest campaign budget, although no official figures are available.
The 2011 election campaign has been marked by at least four distinct phases since the beginning of the year.
The topic of migration and foreign criminals saw the People’s Party benefit most, while the Green parties won support as the public attention focused on nuclear power and environmental matters in the wake of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan.
The economy, notably the potentially damaging impact of the strong Swiss franc, became the dominant issue from July onwards giving the Social Democrats as well as the Radicals, traditionally close to the business community, a slight boost.
The past few weeks have seen the rightwing People’s Party again making the most of discussions over the future party political make-up of the government.
The debate is likely to gather pace after the parliamentary elections, with the People’s Party laying claim to a second seat in the cabinet. At the moment five parties are represented in the seven-strong government.
“This year’s campaign has not focused on a person, but on a broad range of fast-changing themes. The emotional impact may have been slightly inferior to 2007,” the authors of the latest poll say.
Longchamp also highlights a clear polarisation between the left and the right over certain issues, including migration and nuclear energy, but he adds that the trend could have reached a peak.
With the expected gains of the new centre-right parties, Switzerland’s political landscape is moving towards a “polarised pluralism” and parliament slightly more to the right, he says.
Assuming there is an increase in voter turnout on October, Longchamp concludes that “Switzerland’s political system has the people’s backing.”
The survey is based on telephone interviews carried out between October 1 and October 8 with 2,007 citizens across the country.
The Swiss Abroad community was not included in the poll.
The margin of error is 2.2%.
It is the seventh and final opinion poll, carried out by the gfs.bern research institute and commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 23.End of insertion
The survey also polled the electorate about public concerns.
The list of six items remained largely unchanged over the past ten months.
Immigration and environment came out top, followed by concerns over the economy, including the Swiss franc.
Health issues, unemployment and pensions also featured in the top six positions.
Relations with the European Union, tax matters as well as education and security were also mentioned among the top ten.End of insertion
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