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Populist Right Set to Sweep Swiss Polls

Populist Right Set to Sweep Swiss Polls

Sunday, 22 October 2023 08:27 AM EDT

Right-wing populists looked set to sweep Switzerland's general election as the votes were being counted Sunday following a campaign fuelled by anti-mass migration rhetoric and pledges to combat "woke madness".

The polling stations closed at noon (1000 GMT), the vast majority of Swiss voters having posted in their ballots over the past four weeks.

"It was too late to send it by post but given that it's important, I told myself I would still come today," voter Melanie Salamin told AFP at a polling station in the capital Bern.

"It's our chance and then we can't complain, we mustn't wail: we are asked for our opinion and so we give it."

The wealthy European country of 8.8 million people voted for all 200 seats in the National Council lower house of parliament and all 46 in the Council of States upper chamber.

A first results projection, giving percentages only, is expected at around 4 pm (1400 GMT), with a seat projection two hours later.

Muriel Meister went to her local polling station in Bern in person.

"I told myself that it sets a good example for the children and that it was more tangible than sending an envelope in the mail," she told AFP.

The Council of States, which represents the cantons that make up Switzerland, is dominated by the centre-right party The Centre, and the right-wing party called FDP.The Liberals.

Elections, by majority vote, rarely change the balance in the upper house.

The first two seats went to The Centre -- one candidate elected unopposed and one elected earlier by "Landsgemeinde": a show of hands in the main square still used in the Appenzell Innerrhoden canton.

- SVP riding high -

In the National Council lower house, where proportional representation is used, the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party (SVP) looks likely to course to consolidate its position as the biggest political force.

Meanwhile the Greens are expected to cede ground back to the Social Democrats, according to the opinion polls.

The SVP's election campaign focused on its favourite theme: the fight against "mass immigration" and the prospect of the Swiss population reaching 10 million.

It's "New normal?" social media adverts, spotlighting criminal cases perpetrated by foreigners, plunged into a world of bloodied knives, hooded criminals, fists, bruised faces and frightened women.

It also launched war on "cancel culture" and what it calls "gender terror and woke madness".

The SVP -- which is strongly anti-EU -- fiercely defends Switzerland's long-standing military neutrality and feels Bern pushed the principle too far by matching EU sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine.

The SVP has topped every National Council election since 1999, though its support level has varied.

"It's true that four years ago, our vote went down," SVP leader Marco Chiesa told AFP.

Although "we are still the first party, we want to get 100,000 voters back, to get closer to 30 percent" -- something no Swiss party has ever achieved under the proportional representation system.

- Climate and living costs -

On the other side of the National Council's hemicycle, the Greens and the Green Liberals are thought unlikely to hold their 2019 gains.

Though climate change remains a major issue in Switzerland -- where Alpine glaciers are retreating at an exceptional rate -- the environmentalist movement seems to have lost momentum during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even though Switzerland remains one of the world's richest countries, with unemployment running at around two percent and a very high GDP per capita, the cost of living has also stolen the limelight from climate change, with inflation and surging health insurance costs hitting people's pockets.

The Social Democrats hope to make gains on these issues, and are calling for reforms that would index health insurance contributions to income.

However, most voters will tend towards apathy: general election turnout is typically around 45 percent.

The 246 newly-elected parliamentarians will choose the seven members of the government on December 13.

The seats are shared out 2-2-2-1 among the four main parties and few changes are expected.

The Federal Council government takes its decisions by consensus.

© AFP 2024


Newsfront
Right-wing populists looked set to sweep Switzerland's general election as the votes were being counted Sunday following a campaign fuelled by anti-mass migration rhetoric and pledges to combat "woke madness".The polling stations closed at noon (1000 GMT), the vast majority...
swiss, election, conservatives, right, win
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2023-27-22
Sunday, 22 October 2023 08:27 AM
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