Moderates stall rise of Swiss nationalists



Moderates stall rise of Swiss nationalists Bern: Swiss voters backed moderate forces in their general election in which nationalists failed in their effort to break through the 30 per cent barrier with a campaign heavy on anti-immigrant sentiment.

The nationalist Swiss People's Party, or SVP, was projected to take 25.9 per cent of the vote for the lower house, a drop of 3 per cent from four years ago, according to public television station SF's latest projections today.

On the left, the Greens also sustained a surprising setback, taking 7.9 per cent of the vote, a drop of 1.7 per cent from four years ago. The SVP and Greens were each projected to lose seven seats in Switzerland's lower chamber, the 200-seat National Council.

"We didn't achieve our election goal," People's Party president Toni Brunner conceded as results from yesterday's voting trickled in.

His party diminishment reverses 20 years of steady growth in parliamentary elections that are held every four years. It drew 11 per cent of the vote in 1987, but captured as much as 28.9 per cent in 2007.

During that time, support had eroded for two major center-right parties, the Free Democratic Party and Christian Democratic People's Party, from a combined 42.5 per cent in 1987 down to 30.3 per cent in 2007.

Now, two of the SVP's small centrist competitors are rebounding at its expense.

The SVP's rise was stalled by the Conservative Democratic Party whose members split from the SVP in 2007, and the centrist Green Liberal Party, which picks up 9 seats in the National Council successfully riding a wave of anti-nuclear sentiment following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant in March.

Both those centrist parties are expected to receive more than 5 per cent of the vote for the National Council. Voters are also deciding on 45 of 46 seats for the upper house, or Council of States.

Barely one of every two eligible Swiss voters typically exercise their privilege. Estimated turnout for yesterday's general election remained virtually unchanged at 48.9 per cent, slightly up from 48.2 per cent in 2007.

The panoply of political parties in Switzerland makes for intense haggling after every election, however, as each group demands fair representation in the country's cross-party government.

PTI