Last pre-election poll predicts major gains for conservative People’s Party

The Swiss general election on October 24 could cause a political tremor, according to a new opinion poll. With just two weeks to go, the conservative People's Party appears to be making significant gains.

This content was published on October 8, 1999 - 08:27

The Swiss general election on October 24 could cause a political tremor, according to a new opinion poll. With just two weeks to go, the conservative People's Party appears to be making significant gains.

The four-party system of government, which has helped ensure political stability in Switzerland for the past 40 years, may be in for a shake-up, according to the last opinion poll before the election.

The People's Party, which is the fourth biggest party, is set to become the second largest in parliament as the poll is projecting it to win 20 percent of the vote -- 5 percent up on its showing in the last election in 1995.

The two centre-right parties, the Radicals and the Christian Democrats, are set to see their share of the vote fall to a historic low, according to the poll.

The Radicals are projected to win 19 percent, one percentage point down on 1995, and the Christian Democrats are set to win 15 percent, down from the party's lowest-ever level of 16.8 percent four years ago.

The left-of-centre Social Democrats look likely to remain the largest party in parliament, with forecasts showing it will poll 23 percent, about one percentage point up on 1995.

The emergence of the People's Party, which confirms previous poll findings, is likely to challenge the cosy four-party set up in the seven-member cabinet -- an allocation of seats often referred to as the "magic formula."

The Radicals, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats all have two seats in the cabinet but the People's Party has only one. Should the People's Party emerge in second position in the elections, it is likely to press for a second seat, which could lead to some hard bargaining and bickering, analysts say.

The People's Party has won support for its nationalist stances against the rising numbers of asylum seekers in Switzerland and against Swiss integration in Europe. The party‘s populist figurehead, the industrialist and parliamentarian Christoph Blocher, has been a key force in shaping the party’s public image.

Some earlier opinion polls had projected Blocher would do even better but his main election campaign theme, the need for speedy government action to combat the influx of asylum seekers -- particularly from Kosovo -- is no longer the number one issue for the electorate.

Asylum affairs has been replaced by unemployment as the voters' main concern, according to the poll, carried out by the Gfs Research Institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

Increased polarisation between the left and right is also evidenced by the poll.

The Social Democrats are set to take votes from other leftist groups while the People's Party looks likely to gain ground at the expense of both the centre-right and some other right-wing groups.

The election is for the 200-seat House of Representatives and 40 seats in the 46-member Senate.

Written by SRI staff

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