Exit polls show swing to the right in Swiss elections

First national exit polls from Switzerland’s weekend parliamentary elections show that the right-wing Swiss People’s Party has scored major gains.

This content was published on October 24, 1999 minutes

First national exit polls from Switzerland’s weekend parliamentary elections show that the right-wing Swiss People’s Party has scored major gains.

The exit polls showed the People’s Party up with 8 percent to total 23 percent of the votes cast for the House of Representatives, confirming pre-election opinion polls, which had consistently predicted a swing to the right.

The Social Democrats dropped by 0.8 percent for a total of 21 percent, according to the forecasts.

Because of the proportional vote system, those percentage figures do not directly translate into parliamentary seats.

Political observers also widely agree that the Social Democrats and centrist parties will continue to dominate the Senate.

The People’s Party’s steep popularity curve appears largely due to the party’s leading figure, the populist parliamentarian and millionaire businessman Christoph Blocher.

He is a highly controversial political leader who campaigned on an anti-European platform and stands for the party's populist low-tax, tough-on-asylum-seekers policies. He has come out strongly against membership of the United Nations and the European Union.

“I am overwhelmed by the results,” Blocher said in an interview with Swiss television. “We will now demand a second seat in the (seven-member) cabinet.”

Blocher conceded that the centrist parties would very likely block such a move in parliament, where they are strong enough to outvote the People’s Party.

"I'm very disappointed," Social Democratic Party President
Ursula Koch told Swiss television. "The move to the right is
massive, although the People's Party took a lot of votes from the
far right."

Blocher’s policies appear to have struck a cord with many Swiss as the country faces the pressures of increasing economic globalisation and as the nation tries to define its position in an increasingly complex European political landscape.

Some political analysts say that Blocher’s crisp and short answers to often complex political problems seem to have attracted disgruntled voters and siphoned off support for other parties.

Unemployment -- although on the decrease for months -- appears to have been a key concern for many voters, according to political analysts.

Several People’s Party spokesmen, including Blocher, say that Swiss voters have simply shown their support for the party’s clear-cut policies.

Despite the People Party’s gains, there is no political earthquake in Switzerland.

The party already has a seat in the seven-member cabinet. The other six seats are distributed among the other three major parties -- the left-leaning Social Democrats, the centrist Christian Democrats and the pro free-market Radical Party – according to a formula that has been in effect since 1959.

From staff and wire reports.

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