With parliamentary elections just over a week away, the rightwing Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) has preserved its lead in the polls.This content was published on October 8, 2003 - 21:00
The number one political issue as far as the Swiss are concerned is the planned reform of the state pension scheme.
The People’s Party’s share of the vote has dipped slightly since the last opinion poll one month ago, but it is still in front with 25.3 per cent.
It is a position the party has enjoyed in each of the seven pre-election polls carried out over the last 12 months by the Bern-based GfS institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and three national newspapers.
Once again the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SP/PS)lies in second place in the poll.
Its support among voters has increased a little to 23.1 per cent. The other two parties in government, the centre-right Radicals and Christian Democrats, have both seen their share of the vote drop to 19.5 and 14.5 per cent respectively.
The Green Party, with 6.1 per cent, is the most popular of the non-governmental parties.
The planned reform of the state pension scheme is the main concern for voters.
Earlier this month parliamentarians voted in favour of increasing the retirement age for women to 65 – the same level as for men. But the Social Democrats have already started collecting signatures to force a nationwide vote on the issue
The survey suggests that the Radicals have suffered most from the electorate’s worries over the future of state pensions.
In May, Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, who is one of two Radical Party members of the government, launched his blueprint for increasing the retirement age still further to 67 by 2025.
The other issues voters say they are concerned about include unemployment, health insurance, asylum and tax.
Although the latest poll shows that the People’s Party is the most popular with voters, there is no guarantee that it will have the most seats in the House of Representatives after the election.
Political analyst Emanuel von Erlach says Switzerland’s political system means that the allocation of seats does not necessarily correspond to electoral strength.
“With the system of proportional representation that we have, it’s quite hard to predict what the loss or gain of a few percentage points might mean,” he told swissinfo.
“It’s impossible to make an accurate prediction forecast about how many seats each party will have,” he added.
In the 1999 elections both the People’s Party and the Social Democrats won 22.5 per cent of the vote. But in terms of the number of seats in the House of Representatives, the People’s Party gained 45 while the Social Democrats took 52.
The party with the greatest combined number of seats in the House of Representatives and Senate was the Radical Party, even though it secured just 19.9 per cent of the vote.
According to the survey, 13 per cent of those questioned are still not sure how they will vote on October 19.
As far as voter turnout is concerned 51 per cent said they definitely would be voting while another 20 per cent said they would probably vote.
Participation in the last parliamentary elections in 1999 was 43.3 per cent.
swissinfo, Jonathan Summerton
The seventh and final pre-election poll took place between September 15 and 30, 2003.
It was conducted by the GfS institute in Bern on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and three national newspapers.
2005 people were questioned for the poll.
The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 per cent.
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