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Amid rising fears over refugees, far-right party gains ground in Swiss election

A far-right nationalist party has won a high number of seats in Switzerland's parliamentary elections. Its victory is seen as a response to the influx of refugees coming into Europe.

Fueled by anxiety over the current refugee crisis in Europe, the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) rode to victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections, claiming 65 of the 200 seats in the lower house.

The SVP won almost 30 percent of the vote, a significant increase from the 26.6 it won in the last elections in 2011. According to Reuters news agency, this marks the first time since World War I that a Swiss political party has achieved such a high percentage of the vote. The conservative Free Democratic Party also gained more seats. Together, the two parties hold just shy of half the seats in the lower house.

Meanwhile, parties in the center and on the left either lost support or stagnated, with the Social Democrats, the country's second largest party, losing three seats.

Rising fears

The results marked a significant rightward shift in Swiss politics following the elections in 2011, which had seen victories for some of the country's moderate parties. Immigration appeared to be the key issue, as leaders like the SVP's Toni Brummer (photo) played off common fears over the current refugee crisis.

"We have to make Europe less attractive and send a signal that we cannot give asylum here, not even to refugees of war," Brunner told the AFP news agency.

A poll conducted by a Bern-based research institute found that almost half of Swiss voters considered immigration to be the number-one issue.

blc/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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