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Anti-immigration SVP secures gains in Swiss elections

October 22, 2023

Results in the federal election suggest voters were more concerned about rising immigration than environmental issues.

Marco Chiesa, President of the Swiss People's Party (SVP), wait for the outcome if the federal elections
SVP president Marco Chiesa said they got a mandate from voter to deal with issues such as illegal immigration. Image: Anthony Anex/KEYSTONE/picture alliance

Switzerland's right-wing conservative Swiss People's Party (SVP) made gains in a federal election, winning more seats in parliament, final results showed on Monday.

The SVP consolidated its position as Switzerland's leading political party, winning almost 29% of the vote, giving it 62 seats in the 200-member National Council, nine more than before.

Switzerland's second-biggest party, the left-leaning Social Democrats (SP), also slightly increased its vote share to 18%, adding two more lawmakers to total 41.

The results were unlikely to affect the composition of the Federal Council, which is made up of seven members from four different parties, including two from the SVP.

Swiss politics shifts right

The results signal a rightward turn in Europe after victories or electoral gains by conservative parties in Greece, Sweden, and Italy over the last year.

Environmentally minded factions were the biggest losers: The Greens lost five seats in parliament's lower house and will now have 23, while the more centrist Liberal-Greens lost six and now will have 10.

Lisa Mazzone, a Green lawmaker seeking re-election, said the poll results showed "a context of fear, and clearly when we are afraid, we forget hope".

The SVP said it was clear the cost of living and immigration in Switzerland was the biggest concern amongst voters. 

"The situation in Switzerland is serious: we have mass immigration, we have big problems with people seeking asylum. The security situation is no longer the same as before," Thomas Aeschi, head of the SVP parliamentary group, told the AFP news agency.

"There are many people in Switzerland who fear the situation will get worse."
The party ran an ad campaign that was branded "xenophobic" by the Federal Commission Against Racism because it focused on crimes perpetrated by foreigners.

The SP said it was concerned about the country's move to the right.

"It will be more difficult to fight for the cost of living, equality and climate policy," re-elected Social Democrat co-president Cedric Wermuth said.

Voting in Switzerland

The new members of parliament will appoint the Swiss federal government in December.

The lower house, the National Council, is elected by proportional representation.

Meanwhile, the upper house or Council of States is largely elected by majority vote.

The first two seats in the upper house were won by the newly formed party The Center.

One of them was a candidate who was elected unopposed and the other was elected earlier in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden by the Landsgemeinde — a form of direct democracy where people gather in the town square and raise their hands.

The parliamentary election is one of two main ways that Switzerland's population of 8.5 million have their say. The other is through regular referendums that are usually held four times per year.

lo, zc/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)