UPDATE: Populist right dominates Swiss elections

Author thumbnail
The Local/AFP - [email protected]
UPDATE: Populist right dominates Swiss elections
Swiss People's Party (SVP UDC) leader Marco Chiesa (L) speaks with the President of the FDP Liberals Swiss political party Thierry Burkart (C) and the President of The Centre (Die Mitte) Swiss political party Gerhard Pfister (R) prior a TV interview during Swiss federal elections to elect a new Parliament, in Bern on October 22, 2023. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

The right-wing populist Swiss People's Party, which campaigned against mass migration and "woke madness", comfortably topped Switzerland's general election on Sunday, according to early results.


The SVP took 29 percent of the vote in elections to the lower house of parliament, improving its vote share by more than three percentage points, pollsters GFS Bern predicted, with more than half of the results in.

"We have received a very clear mandate from the Swiss population to put on the table issues which matter to them, such as illegal immigration," SVP president Marco Chiesa told national broadcaster RTS.

The SVP came far ahead of the left-wing Social Democrats on 18 percent, while the centre-right party The Centre, and the right-wing party called FDP.The Liberals, were both on course to finish on around 15 percent -- with all three chasing parties largely flatlining.

Meanwhile the Greens could not replicate their dramatic gains at the last election in 2019 and slid back four percentage points to finish fifth on nine percent, according to the projection.

"It will be more difficult to fight for the cost of living, equality and climate policy," re-elected Social Democrat co-president Cedric Wermuth told AFP as the results came in.

Switzerland, a 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.

SVP focus on immigration

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.


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

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

"The situation in Switzerland is serious: we have mass immigration, we have big problems with people seeking asylum. The security situation is no longer the same as before," Thomas Aeschi, head of the SVP parliamentary group, told AFP.

"There are many people in Switzerland who fear the situation will get worse."

Lisa Mazzone, a Green lawmaker seeking re-election, said the poll results showed "a context of fear, and clearly when we are afraid, we forget hope".

The SVP has topped every National Council election since 1999. The lower house, which represents the people, uses proportional representation.


GFS Bern's projections gave the SVP 61 seats, the Social Democrats 41; The Centre 30; FDP.The Liberals 29; the Greens 21, and the Green Liberals 11.

Final results are expected early Monday.

FDP.The Liberals president Thierry Burkart told RTS that the migration issue allowed the SVP to win, and to stop them winning again in 2027, "it is a subject that we must take seriously. We must provide solutions."

The Council of States upper house, which represents the cantons that make up Switzerland, is elected by majority vote. It is dominated by The Centre and FDP.

The Liberals and elections rarely change the balance.

Climate and living cost

Though climate change remains a major issue in Switzerland -- where Alpine glaciers are retreating at an exceptional rate -- political momentum has slowed and both environmentalist parties lost seats.

"It seems the Social Democrats didn't benefit from the fall of the Greens. This is bad news for the left," Sean Muller, a political scientist at the University of Lausanne, told AFP.


Though Switzerland is one of the world's richest countries -- with unemployment at around two percent and GDP per capita very high -- the cost of living has hit hard, with surging health insurance costs.

The Social Democrats had hoped to make major gains on these issues.

Turnout at Swiss general elections 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 new faces are expected.

The Federal Council government takes its decisions by consensus and collective responsibility.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also