Recent results from Switzerland have seen the Swiss People’s party (SVP) emerge as the largest party. Its campaign focused largely on the threat posed by immigrants and reflects a current worry across Europe.
At around 29% of the vote it represents a slight increase of 3% from the 2019 results and it now has 62 seats. At the same time the left – that is the Greens and the Liberal Greens gave ground losing 11 seas between them, although the Socialist party gained two extra seats.
Results table Seats Change
SVP 62 +9
Social Democrats 41 +2
Centre party 29 +1
Radical liberals 28 -1
Greens 23 -5
Liberal greens 10 -6
Turn out in Swiss elections is historically low by comparison to other countries, although this particular election was up slightly at 46% – out of an approximate 5 million electorate – out of a population of 8.7 million. This result, however, is likely to lead to some interesting horse trading as the Swiss try to form a coalition government. The SVP appears to have done very well in the German speaking cantons of Switzerland.
This rightwards shift in Switzerland reflects the general trend in continental Europe towards ‘conservative parties, which has been fed by immigration worries coupled with an increasing sense of disillusion with the EU. Of course, Switzerland is not a member of the EU, like the UK, but it is, however, it’s largest trading partner. The other issue for the Swiss with an ageing population, is health-care costs which are compulsory and this was also a factor.
For a small country, Switzerland has quite a complex electoral system for whilst the Lower Chamber is elected using Proportional Representation (PR): members of the Upper Chamber (called the Council of States – Switzerland is a Confederation) need to achieve a majority in most, but not all, regions. Due to this disparity the SPV is expected to do is less well in the Upper Chamber: probably gaining only six seats out of the 46 in the upper chamber.
In a further complex twist the Federal Council, which is the de facto Government and the President will only be elected by parliament on December 13. The seven-member Federal Council is traditionally formed from the four largest parties in a set ratio of seats 2 : 2 : 2 : 1. There is great dissatisfaction, however, with this methodology with many querying its legitimacy as not reflective of actual results.
What does all this mean?
Well it is too early to tell – but two key and worrying to many, aspects of the SVP are its hostility to the EU and its opposition to Russian sanctions, especially alarming in the light of the Ukraine invasion. One of the other aspects which is quite unique to Switzerland is that the Parliament actually plays only a small role in bringing legislation forward: as most legislative decisions are taken by referenda – usually four times a year – so we can expect interesting questions put to the Swiss people in the years ahead.