A polarisation of voters between the left and the right, which marked the last Swiss parliamentary elections in 2003, seems to have been stopped, a poll indicates.
The election barometer 2007, which has just given first indications of next year's parliamentary elections, says that if voters had their say now, the Greens would make clear gains and the centre-right Radicals would be the losers.
The rightwing Swiss People's Party, the centre-left Social Democrats and the centre-right Christian Democrats would maintain their positions.
Mandated by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the gfs.bern research institute has put together a barometer indicating the current strengths and weaknesses of the political parties.
The first barometer reading on Friday shows no surprises when it comes to party ranking. The Swiss People's Party is still in first place with 26.4 per cent of votes followed by the Social Democrats with 23.5 per cent.
The Radicals in third place with 15.5 per cent are ahead of the Christian Democrats with 14.2 per cent. They are clearly in front of the Green Party, which has a showing of 9.2 per cent.
A closer look at the performance since the last parliamentary elections in 2003 shows a surprise but not regarding the present winner and loser, with the Greens gaining 1.8 per cent and the Radicals losing 1.6 per cent.
What is remarkable is the situation of the two large parties. The Social Democrats (+ 0.5 per cent) and the Swiss People's Party (- 0.2 per cent) have consolidated their positions but have not expanded. The Christian Democrats are also stable with –0.2 per cent.
"The polarisation between those on the left and those on the right has been stopped for the first time since 1991," commented Claude Longchamp, head of the research institute.
Today's voters no longer decide simply between left and right but are more discerning, asking which party could play what role in the future political scene. They also want to know what each is offering, Longchamp says.
He puts the continuing rise of the Greens down to their successes at cantonal level, for example with their entry in cantonal governments, as recently happened in Bern.
"The Greens of 2005 were not a winner party but today they are," the political scientist said.
They did not look then for majorities but growing minorities. The Greens have attracted their new votes not only from the left of the Social Democrats, but also from the political centre. Longchamp says therefore they have become a clear centre-left party.
On the losing side, the Radical Party has to face up to the fact that its strong orientation to the right after the last elections has not paid dividends.
If the Radicals have managed to make a name for themselves, for example in finance issues, it was always in tandem with the People's Party, Longchamp noted, "their biggest competitor on the voters' market".
The Radicals' move to try to gain votes has failed and there is worse.
"The Radical Party has lost voters and credibility in the political centre because it is no longer the party that can guarantee progress and economic growth in Switzerland," Longchamp said.
Just over a year before the elections on October 21, 2007 the Greens are the best placed in the starting blocks. But that doesn't mean to say they are going to win the race.
"The success of the Greens will continue but it will not give them a seat in the government," Longchamp added.
More than one of five voters (22 per cent) would like to see a Green cabinet minister but 34 per cent would like the government to stay as it with two members of the Swiss People's Party, two Social Democrats, two Radicals and one Christian Democrat.
swissinfo, Renat Künzi
The survey included 2,017 people entitled to vote from across Switzerland.
It took place from September 11-30.
Sampling error: +/- 2.2%
The survey does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the composition of seats in the House of Representatives.
Election Barometer 07
The five main issues: asylum, social security, unemployment, taxes/finances and salaries.
The Swiss People's Party and the Social Democrats are believed to have the most authority - the Radicals and Christian Democrats only little.
The presidents of the five large political parties are only known in their own language region.
The government members are very well known in all the country's language regions (except the new economics minister Doris Leuthard).
72% believe that Micheline Calmy-Rey (foreign minister) and Moritz Leuenberger (transport and energy minister) from the Social Democratic Party are credible. Defence Minister Samuel Schmid from the People's Party earns a score of 70%. Economics Minister Doris Leuthhard scores 60% with Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz slightly lower.
Justice Minister Christoph Blocher (People's Party) and Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin (Radical Party) do not convince 50% of those surveyed that they are credible.