Will the voter support for the right translate into Swiss politics?

The stunning gains by Switzerland’s right-wing nationalist People’s Party (SVP) in parliamentary elections on Sunday marks the biggest concentration of right-wing nationalist power in decades. But the precise impact of the gains remains to be seen.

This content was published on October 25, 1999 minutes

The stunning gains by Switzerland’s right-wing nationalist People’s Party (SVP) in weekend parliamentary elections marks the biggest concentration of right-wing nationalist power in decades. But because of the checks and balances system of Swiss politics, the precise impact remains to be seen.

The People’s Party has become a major force in the 200-member House of Representatives, gaining significant ground and effectively joining up with the left-leaning Social Democrats and the centrist Radical Party.

According to final results, the Social Democrats won 51 House seats, the People's Party 44, the Radical Party 43, and the Christian Democrats 35.

All four parties are represented in the seven-member cabinet.

The main significance of the elections is that the People’s Party succeeded in siphoning off and concentrating in its own hands much of the voter support that previously went to small right-wing parties.

Political analysts point out that the party’s populist figurehead, millionaire businessman and parliamentarian Christoph Blocher, has struck a cord with the public by offering crisp and short answers to often complex political problems.

His party insists on Swiss neutrality and is staunchly anti-European Union and anti-United Nations. The party also wants tax cuts to stimulate the economy and create jobs and demands a crackdown on “too many dishonest asylum seekers.”

Those policies have found support at a time when Switzerland has to decide on its integration in Europe and to define its position in a world characterised by the economic and social pressures of increasing globalisation.

The influx of tens of thousands of Kosovar refugees has certainly also contributed to the party’s popularity.

However, despite the major wins of the People’s Party, the other three parties represented in the government – and parliament, for that matter – can vote down the right-wing party any time they decide to join forces.

This power also puts into perspective the People’s Party’s demands for more power.

Blocher has already called for a second cabinet seat, and the party’s member in the cabinet, Defence Minister Adolf Ogi, demanded more party representatives in upper-echelon administration posts.

However, party leaders conceded that the other parties would almost certainly succeed in blocking a second People’s Party seat in the government.

From staff and wire reports.

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