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Swiss elections: Gains likely for nationalist parties

Amid growing unease about migrant flows, the nationalist SVP party is set to strengthen its support in Switzerland's parliament. Analysts say those gains could lead to a small center-right majority.

Switzerland's nationalist Swiss People's Party (SVP) is again expected to win the largest share of the vote in Sunday's parliamentary elections, amid a growing anti-immigrant feeling in the wealthy Alpine nation.

Polls closed at 12pm local time (10:00 UTC) and polling stations were open for just a few hours because most voters had already cast their ballot online or by post in advance.

The SVP, which favors restricting the number of foreign workers - including from EU states - was expected to get about 28 percent of the votes, up from 26.6 in the 2011 election, according to opinion polls.

The centre-right Liberals are also likely to see an increase in voter share, which could see parliament turn in favor of a slight center-right majority.

The first results are expected on Sunday afternoon with the final tally being released early on Monday.

Migration fears resonate

Pundits put the SVP's rise in popularity down to fears of Europe's migration crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands of refugees pour into neighboring countries including Germany and Austria.

Although Switzerland has not seen a large number of newcomers in the

current migration wave

, one in four residents is a foreigner and unease about growing immigration has been building for several years.

Last year,

a referendum - backed by the SVP - was passed,

restricting the number of immigrants within Swiss borders.

Despite the center-right's gains in this election, Switzerland's consensus-oriented political system would likely prevent a major political shift.

But local media reported that immigration policies, along with energy and social security, could be further impacted by the move. A stronger right-wing alliance may also try to water down decisions on ending Swiss banking secrecy.

A total of 245 parliamentary seats were up for grabs, 200 in the lower chamber and the rest in the upper chamber.

mm/se (AFP, AP, dpa)

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