Left wins historic victory in Neuchâtel

The Château de Neuchâtel, home of the cantonal government Keystone

A leftwing alliance has seized power in a Swiss canton for only the second time since the Second World War.

This content was published on April 12, 2005 minutes

The election result in Neuchâtel in western Switzerland represents a major setback for the centre-right Radical Party.

On Tuesday the Left picked up three of the five seats in the cantonal government, handing the Radicals and their partners the centre-right Liberal Party their second bloody nose in 48 hours.

On Sunday the two centre-right parties lost control of the cantonal parliament, as the Social Democrats, Greens, Communist Labour Party and Socialist Alliance grabbed a single-seat majority.

The other big winner on the day was the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which won 17 seats. Prior to Sunday’s election, it had no representatives in the cantonal parliament.

The Radicals suffered badly, losing ten of their 25 seats. The Liberals lost a third of their 35 seats in the cantonal parliament.

The centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party repeated the trick on Tuesday, gaining three of the five seats in the cantonal government after all the parties agreed to dispense with a second vote.

It is the first time in the canton’s history that the Left has held power in both the parliament and government.

Reverse for Radicals

The Radical Party, which lost one of its two seats in government, said the result was the logical consequence of Sunday’s reverse in the parliamentary elections.

"The Left has a very narrow majority in parliament and it is therefore logical that it has three seats in government," said Raphaël Comte, president of the Radical Party in Neuchâtel.

The Radical Party, which was once Switzerland’s leading political force, has been steadily losing electoral support in recent years.

It is now the third-largest party in parliament with 40 of the 200 seats in the House of Representatives, behind the Social Democrats and the People’s Party.

In an interview with swissinfo last month, the party’s new president Fulvio Pelli said he intended to focus on the economy and social security to win back former supporters, many of whom have gone over to the People’s Party.

In November last year the Left seized control of the government and parliament in canton Basel-City for the first time in more than 50 years.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Canton Neuchâtel’s new government:
Bernard Soguel, Social Democrat
Jean Studer, Social Democrat
Fernand Cuche, Green Party
Sylvie Perrinjaquet, Liberal Party
Roland Debély, Radical Party

New cantonal parliament (115 seats):
58 for the Left:
Social Democratic Party – 41 (+2)
Green Party – 10 (+3)
Communist Labour Party – 6 (-1)
Socialist Alliance – 1 (-1)

57 for the Right:
Liberal Party – 25 (-10)
People’s Party – 17 (+17)
Radical Party – 15 (-10)

End of insertion
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