Gains for Greens as climate fears grow

Ecology parties look set to be the big winners in the Swiss general election, which takes place in October, according to a poll published on Friday.

This content was published on April 20, 2007 minutes

The third election barometer by the gfs.bern institute shows a fear among Swiss voters over the effects of climate change, with nearly 60 per cent saying they feel threatened.

It forecasts that the rightwing Swiss People's Party will continue to be the biggest party in parliament, maintaining its level of support. The other three parties in government are set to either maintain their share of the vote or see it dip.

The Green Party, on the other hand, is set to gain 10.7 per cent of the votes in the Swiss House of Representatives – the chamber that represents the people.

The liberal Greens, who are on the right of the political spectrum, are expected to take a further 1.5 per cent.

Carried out for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – swissinfo's parent body – the survey notes that the recent United Nations climate report has given the Greens a boost.

The survey was made in the last two weeks of March, before cantonal elections in Zurich that confirmed the rise of the Greens.

In the elections, considered a good test for the federal vote, the Greens took 19 seats (five more than in the previous ballot) and the liberal Greens ten (plus ten).

At the federal election in 2003, the Greens won 7.4 per cent of the vote, and the last barometer in January was forecasting they would take nine per cent in autumn. With the figure standing at 10.7 per cent now, the progression is clear.

Reacting to the statistics on Friday, Green party chief Ruth Genner told Swiss television that the survey's results reflected their cantonal wins.

Environment and climate

The main change since the second barometer is the seriousness of problems linked to the environment and climate, the gfs.bern institute commented. In the interval the UN has published an alarming report on climate change.

According to the survey, 14 per cent of Swiss say they are "very threatened" and 45 per cent "threatened" by climate change.

The environment and climate have risen to second place among the concerns of the Swiss, just behind the integration of foreigners. Before, these issues had hovered between eighth and tenth positions.

Among those surveyed that feel the environment is a priority issue, 67 per cent believe the Greens are the most qualified to solve the problems. The percentage rate among all the other parties is, at best, seven per cent.

The Greens, who are particularly sensitive to these problems and can put forward proposals, are in a position to take advantage of the concerns, the institute said. That translates into possible votes for them.

Stable front

The new survey confirms what had already been seen in the two previous barometers – the Swiss political front remains fairly stable for the four parties that are represented in the government.

If the vote took place today, the rightwing Swiss People's Party would remain the most popular party with 26.2 per cent of the votes (26.7 per cent at the last federal election).

The centre-left Social Democratic Party would also maintain its position with 22.6 per cent (23.3 per cent).

Progression for these two parties has come to a halt because the bipolarisation that has marked the Swiss political landscape since 1995 is coming to an end, the institute explained.

There are different trends for the two other parties that have seats in the cabinet. The centre-right Radical Party would continue its downward slide with 15.6 per cent (17.3 per cent in 2003), while the centre-right Christian Democratic Party seems to have stopped the loss of electors with 14.6 per cent (14.4 per cent in 2003)

swissinfo, Olivier Pauchard

Key facts

Main findings of the poll

Swiss People's Party: 26.2% (26.7% in 2003)
Social Democratic Party: 22.6% (23.3%)
Radical Party: 15.6% (17.3%)
Christian Democratic Party: 14.6% (14.4%)
The Green Party: 10.7% (7.4%)
Expected turnout: 44%

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In brief

The poll is the third in a series of eight before the federal election on October 21.

A total of 2,024 people from all Swiss language regions were questioned during the last two weeks of March in the representative survey.

It covers only the views about the seats in the House of Representatives.

The error of margin is plus or minus 2.2%.

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