The Associated Press (USA newswire)
Sunday 23 October 2011
Nationalists Lose Ground
in Swiss VoteBERN, Switzerland (AP) — Swiss voters backed moderate parties in their general election on Sunday, and the nationalist Swiss People’s Party lost ground after mounting a campaign heavy on anti-immigrant sentiment.
The nationalists were projected to take 25.9 percent of the vote for the lower house, a drop from four years ago, according to projections from the public television station SF early Monday.
On the left, the Green Party also suffered a surprising setback, taking 7.9 percent of the vote. Both the People’s Party and the Greens were projected to lose seats in Switzerland’s lower chamber, the 200-member National Council.
The results halted 20 years of steady growth by the People’s Party in parliamentary elections, which are held every four years. The party, which drew just 11 percent of the vote in 1987, rose to capture 28.9 percent in 2007, while support eroded for two of the major center-right parties, the Free Democrats and the Christian Democrats.
Two other centrist parties — the Conservative Democrats, who split from the People’s Party in 2007, and the Green Liberal Party — were the beneficiaries of the nationalists’ decline. The Green Liberals in particular rode a wave of antinuclear sentiment stoked by the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan in March.
The number of political parties in Switzerland makes for intense haggling after every election, as each group demands fair representation in the country’s seven-member cabinet, which governs by consensus despite the sometimes widely differing views of its members.
Despite its setback, the People’s Party won the most votes, and it immediately laid claim to two seats in the cabinet, whose ministers run federal agencies and take turns serving as president for a year.
The party’s campaign warned that immigrants were spoiling a nation that has been an oasis of stability. Almost one in five residents of Switzerland was born elsewhere, one of the highest proportions in Europe.
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