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Higher turnout boosts Rightwing gains

The People's Party attracted many first-time voters Keystone

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party benefited from increased turnout in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, according to analysis of the vote.

This content was published on October 20, 2003 - 21:14

The survey by the GfS research institute also blamed the interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, for the Radical Party's disappointing performance.

Post-election analysis has found that the increase in health insurance premiums - announced ten days ago - and the way Couchepin delivered the news were the main reasons for the party’s poor results.

The interior minister came under fire from the cantons, rival political parties and consumer organisations for failing to take political responsibility for the average 4.3 per cent rise.

The findings also showed that the big gains by the Swiss People’s Party and the Green Party were proof of the polarisation of Swiss politics into Left and Right.

The high number of swing voters – voters who have no allegiance to any political party – was another sign of polarisation, said analysts,

Polls showed that some former supporters of the Radicals swung to the People’s Party, and the Social Democrats and the Green Party gained votes from the Christian Democrats.

Voter turnout

One of the main findings of the opinion poll, which was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, was the impact of this year’s increased turnout.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, turnout was 44.5 per cent - up 1.2 per cent compared with four years ago. Analysts said turnout was now back to where it was in the 1980s.

The survey found that the People’s Party was the only party to really benefit from the increased voter interest. Its share of the vote increased in cantons that saw a rise in turnout.

The survey also touched on the party’s huge success in western Switzerland, where it boosted its share of the vote by ten per cent in Vaud, Fribourg and Geneva. All three cantons have seen turnout rise significantly since the last election.

Magic Formula

The GfS researchers also asked participants whether their attitude towards Switzerland’s "Magic Formula" – the system of dividing the seven cabinet seats among the four main parties – had changed since the election.

Two month ago a majority of people questioned were in favour of keeping the system – a view that has barely changed since.

Most of the voters were of the opinion that the Magic Formula had worked well so far, but they said they would also understand if the distribution of cabinet seats changed according to the share of the vote.

The People's Party has demanded a second cabinet seat at the expense of one of the other parties to reflect its position as the country's strongest political force.

However, analysts found that attitudes towards the Magic Formula much depended on the voter’s political affiliation.

Only 18 per cent of those, who voted for the People’s Party, believed in the Magic Formula in its present form, while 60 per cent of Christian Democrat supporters thought it had worked well so far.

The survey was based on telephone interviews with 1,000 voters all over Switzerland. It was conducted from Sunday afternoon, after polling stations had closed, until Monday morning.

Only people who voted in Sunday’s parliamentary elections were allowed to take part in the survey.

swissinfo, Hansjörg Bolliger (translation: Billi Bierling)

Key facts

The Swiss People's Party won 26.6% of the popular vote, and now has 55 seats in the House of Representatives.
Social Democrats: 23.3% with 52 seats.
Radicals: 17.3% with 36 seats.
Christian Democrats: 14.4% with 28 seats.
Greens (not in government): 7.4% with 13 seats.

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