Swiss parliamentary elections see swing to the right

The right-wing People’s Party has significantly increased its presence in the Swiss parliament and is the main winner of elections this weekend, according to Swiss television forecasts.

This content was published on October 24, 1999 minutes

The right-wing People’s Party has significantly increased its presence in the Swiss parliament and is the main winner of elections this weekend, according to Swiss television forecasts.

Exit polls showed the People’s Party up with 8 percent to total 23 percent of the votes cast for the House of Representatives, confirming pre-election opinion polls, which had consistently predicted a swing to the right.

Swiss television said this would translate into a gain of 15 seats for the People's Party to total 44 seats in the 200-member chamber.

The Social Democrats suffer some losses but retain their position as the biggest party in the House with 46 seats, according to the television predictions.

Political observers widely agree that the Social Democrats and centrist parties will continue to dominate the Senate, thus balancing out some of the right-wing gains.

The results will likely send a powerful political signal and stir the debate over which way Switzerland should be headed in the future.

The People’s Party’s steep popularity curve appears largely due to the party’s leading figure, the populist parliamentarian and millionaire businessman Christoph Blocher.

He is a highly controversial political leader who campaigned on an anti-European platform and stands for the party's populist low-tax, tough-on-asylum-seekers policies. He has come out strongly against membership of the United Nations and the European Union.

“I am overwhelmed by the results,” Blocher said in an interview with Swiss television. “We will now demand a second seat in the (seven-member) cabinet.”

Blocher conceded that the centrist parties would very likely block such a move in parliament, where they are strong enough to outvote the People’s Party.

"I'm very disappointed," Social Democratic Party President Ursula Koch told Swiss television. "The move to the right is massive, although the People's Party took a lot of votes from the far right."

Blocher’s policies appear to have struck a cord with many Swiss as the country faces the pressures of increasing economic globalisation and as the nation tries to define its position in an increasingly complex European political landscape.

Some political analysts say that Blocher’s crisp and short answers to often complex political problems seem to have attracted disgruntled voters and siphoned off support for other parties.

Unemployment -- although on the decrease for months -- appears to have been a key concern for many voters, according to political analysts.

Several People’s Party spokesmen, including Blocher, say that Swiss voters have simply shown their support for the party’s clear-cut policies.

Despite the People Party’s gains, there is no political earthquake in Switzerland.

The party already has a seat in the seven-member cabinet. The other six seats are distributed among the other three major parties -- the left-leaning Social Democrats, the centrist Christian Democrats and the pro free-market Radical Party – according to a formula that has been in effect since 1959.

From staff and wire reports.

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