Swiss elections 2023: Right-wing Swiss People’s Party expected to gain lead by the time voting ends

Election workers count ballot papers during Swiss federal elections to elect a new parliament in the Swiss capital Bern on October 22, 2023.—AFP
Election workers count ballot papers during Swiss federal elections to elect a new parliament in the Swiss capital Bern on October 22, 2023.—AFP

As voting time for Switzerland’s general election ended on Sunday, right-wing populist forces appear poised for a sweeping victory, fueled by mass anti-migration rhetoric and countering what they call “woke madness.” Promise to do.

Voting closed at noon (1000 GMT), with the vast majority of Swiss voters having cast their ballots over the past four weeks.

This wealthy European nation with a population of 88 lakh voted for all 200 seats in the lower house of the National Council and all 46 seats in the upper house of the Council of States. The preliminary results projection, offering only percentages, is expected around 4 pm (1400 GMT), with the seat projection following two hours later.

The Council of States, representing Switzerland’s constituent cantons, is primarily controlled by the centre-right party The Center and the right-wing FDP. According to the Liberals, it is rare for elections to cause significant changes in the balance in the Upper House.

In the lower house of the National Council, which employs proportional representation, the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP) looks set to consolidate its position as the dominant political force. Meanwhile, according to opinion polls, the Greens are expected to cede ground to the Social Democrats.

The SVP’s campaign focused on familiar themes, primarily the fight against “mass immigration” and concerns about the Swiss population exceeding 10 million. Their “new normal?” Social media ads highlighted criminal cases involving foreigners and portrayed a world plagued by violence, crime and fear.

Additionally, the SVP launched an attack on “cancel culture” and what it called “gender terror and woke paranoia”. The party strongly defends Switzerland’s long-standing military neutrality and criticizes Bern for matching EU sanctions on Russia in relation to its actions in Ukraine, a move that the SVP finds contrary to the principles of neutrality. Sees as a violation of.

The SVP, a staunchly anti-EU party, has consistently topped every National Council election since 1999, although its levels of support have fluctuated. The party is committed to regaining the support it lost four years ago, aiming to reach 30 percent, a threshold no Swiss party has ever reached under the proportional representation system.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum from the National Council, the Greens and Green Liberals are expected to lose some of their 2019 gains. Despite the importance of climate change in Switzerland, the environmentalist movement seems to have lost some momentum amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Economic concerns such as cost of living, inflation and rising health insurance expenses have also been prioritized.

The Social Democrats hope to make progress on these issues and have proposed reforms including indexing health insurance contributions to income. However, Swiss voter turnout for general elections typically hovers around 45 percent.

The 246 newly elected MPs will elect seven members of the government on December 13, with some significant changes expected. The Federal Council government works on a consensus-based decision-making process.

The election reflects a broader trend in Western politics, where right-wing populist parties have gained prominence by emphasizing issues related to immigration, cultural identity and traditional values.

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