Swiss shift rightwards in vote as immigration fears trump environment

FILE PHOTO: The Swiss Parliament Building (Bundeshaus) is pictured in early autumn light in Bern, Switzerland October 11, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

Switzerland moved rightwards in an election on Sunday, giving the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) more seats in parliament as concerns about rising immigration outweighed those about the environment, final results showed on Monday.

While the change is unlikely to alter the make up of the country’s governing Federal Council consisting of seven members from four different parties – including two from the SVP – analysts said it pointed to a shift in the political climate.

The result suggests a move away from progressive themes like the environment and transport, and a return to conservatism, they said, after a period marked by crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

The SVP cemented its place as the biggest group in parliament’s lower house, increasing its share of the vote to 28.6%, according to data from the Swiss Federal Statistics Office.

The increase – 3 percentage points higher than the 2019 election – means the SVP gets 62 seats in the 200 member National Council, nine more than it had before.

The outcome was also seen as a rebuff of parties seen as representing the political elite who have been criticised for being out of touch with ordinary voters as the cost of living – particularly of health care – rises.

“The consequences of the left-green asylum, immigration and energy policies are devastating for our country,” the SVP said in a statement late on Sunday.

“Housing shortage, rising rents, concreting over of the countryside, traffic jams, falling school standards, cost explosion in health care, the state is becoming more and more expensive and powerful and people have less and less money at their disposal.”

The SVP also highlighted the expense of the asylum system, while arguing that crime rates were rising because of immigration.

Switzerland’s second-biggest party, the left-leaning Social Democrats (SP) also slightly increased its share of the vote to 18%.

But despite adding two more lawmakers to take its total to 41, it said it was concerned about the country’s slide to the right.

“The strengthened right-wing majority will be able to continue its policy of granting further privileges to big corporations and the rich, while the population goes away empty-handed,” said co-SP leader Cedric Wermuth.

The big loser in the election was the Green Party, whose support fell 3.8 percentage points, losing them five seats.

“Swiss politics has shifted rightwards,” said Cloe Jans from pollsters GFS Bern. “Migration has been more of an issue which has helped the SVP significantly.

“The results mean it will be more difficult for progressive issues or issues like the environment and sustainability. Politicians will feel less pressure from outside to push this agenda in the next four years after this result.”

Source: Reuters, TOE Agencies

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