Immigration trumps the environment as right-wing populists win Swiss federal elections

By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Federal elections held in Switzerland on Sunday saw the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) increase its vote share as the country’s largest party as voters endorsed the party’s calls to further control immigration.

The SVP won 29 percent of the vote — up from 25.6 percent four years earlier — and increased its representation in the Swiss parliament from 53 to 62 seats.

“We have problems with immigration, illegal immigrants, and problems with the security of energy supply,” said SVP leader Marco Chiesa during the election campaign. “We already have asylum chaos (…) A population of 10 million people in Switzerland is a topic we really have to solve.”

The party called on the country to tackle its rising population, which currently stands at 8.7 million people, and remained committed to its economically and socially conservative principles of rejecting EU membership, expansion of the state, and military involvement abroad.

The election was dominated by Switzerland’s two mainstream parties, the SVP and the left-wing Social Democrats (SP), which also saw its number of parliamentary seats increase by two. This was primarily at the expense of the Green Party, which lost five seats, and the Green Liberal Party of Switzerland (GLP) — a group that splintered from the Greens back in 2007 — which lost six as worries over immigration trumped environmental concerns.

“We clearly missed our goals, and I am accordingly disappointed,” said GLP party leader Jürg Grossen.

The Center Alliance and the center-right Free Democrats (FDP) came third and fourth, attaining around 14 percent of the vote apiece, ending up with 29 and 28 seats, respectively.

“The consequence of this election will be a tougher immigration and asylum policy,” SVP parliamentary group leader Thomas Aeschi told the SRF broadcaster.

However, despite being the largest parliamentary party, the SVP will not have enough seats for a majority, even with its political allies. This means that tougher policies proposed by a minority right-wing government could be watered down as they seek approval from the center faction.

The gradual shift towards right-wing politics has been a staple of European elections in the past two years, following the election of Giorgia Meloni in Italy; conservative governments in Estonia, Greece, and Sweden; and the rise of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which sit first and second in their respective national polls.

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