Green gains could tip parliament slightly left

The parliamentary elections take place against the backdrop of a series of climate protests in Swiss cities and towns over the past few months. Keystone / Martial Trezzini

The Swiss parliament is set for a slight shift to the left at the expense of the political right, according to a final opinion poll conducted ahead of the October 20th election. 

This content was published on October 9, 2019 - 17:00

The survey published on Wednesday found that the left – the Social Democratic Party and the Greens – could gain up to 3%, while the right – the Swiss People’s Party and the Radical Liberals – stands to lose 3.3% in the House of Representatives. 

The bloc of centrist parties, including the Christian Democrats, the Liberal Greens and the Conservative Democrats looks set to remain solid, according to the Sotomo research instituteExternal link, which carried out the poll on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). 

For details on the main political parties see graphic below. 

Kai Reusser /

“Overall this is quite a significant development for Swiss politics, even though the overall situation is stable,” says Michael Hermann, director of Sotomo. 

The likely gains for the Green Party are more pronounced in the French-speaking region of Switzerland and could come at the expense of the Social Democrats. Meanwhile, the Radicals appear to have lost support in the majority German-speaking region, boosting the hopes of the Greens and the Liberal Greens. 

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party is likely to drop slightly from its record result of 29.4% in 2015 but will most likely remain by far the strongest group in the House of Representatives. 

However, possibly the biggest shock of the final opinion poll is the predicted losses of the Radical Party, which might pay the price for its recent policy shift on environmental matters, according to Hermann. 

Low-key but not boring 

The pollster dismisses criticism that the current election campaign has been dull

“Those looking for big drama have no doubt been disappointed. But it has been an interesting campaign from the vantage point of political scientists,” Hermann explains. 

New topics appeared and new methods were used more frequently than before, focusing on digital campaigns and with fewer posters in urban areas. 

Hermann says he has never seen such a radical change in campaign topic over four years in Swiss politics: from immigration and foreigners (benefiting the political right) to environment and climate issues which are likely to boost the left and centre-left. 

Another factor contributing to a low-key campaign is the People’s Party very limited power of shocking its opponents with emotional slogans and tactics. “The party tried it again, but it all died down quickly,” the polling expert says. 

Apart from short-lived controversies over a poster with a rotten apple by the right-wingers and some harsh verbal attacks, there was also an attempt at negative campaigning on digital media, involving two other major parties. 


Concerns about climate issues have remained at the forefront over the past 12 months. 

“The Green wave is rolling along, and it has even gained in strength,” says Hermann. 

Even among the expatriate Swiss community, global warming appears to be the priority, ahead of questions on future relations between Switzerland and the European Union. 

But unlike domestic voters, the expat Swiss would not be directly affected by possible political measures decided by parliament, including price hikes on fuel, Hermann says. 

No indication was made about the expected turnout on October 20. Hermann says that right-wing and left-wing parties in particular will have to rely on a strong turnout of their grassroots to be successful. 

Political scientists expect turnout could pass the 50% mark for the first time in 40 years, driven by more women and the younger generation feeling motivated to take part in the elections. Turnout has stagnated around 48% over the past 12 years. 

Polling details 

The SBC Election Barometer is an online poll by the Sotomo research institute in Zurich ahead of the October 20 parliamentary elections. 

It covers the elections to the House of Representatives but not to the Senate. 

The last of six surveys is based on valid data from 12,107 respondents, among them 318 expatriate Swiss. The poll was carried out between September 26 and October 2. 

The margin of error is +/-1.4% according to Sotomo. 

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