A nationalist party riding fears about mass migration to Europe appeared set Sunday to become the big winner in Swiss legislative elections, projections showed, capping a shift to the political right in the small Alpine nation. The anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party appeared set to gain 11 seats and the pro-business Free Democratic Party another three in the lower house of parliament, the National Council, according to the latest figures from state-backed broadcaster RTS. Together, the two leading parties of the right were set to hold 99 seats — just one short of half control of the 200-seat assembly. The result marks a shift from the success of moderate parties in the last election four years ago: The biggest parties of the left and center all lost ground, in particular two Green parties, or held even. The outcome giving the People’s Party nearly 30 percent surpassed poll predictions, while the Social Democrats — the country’s second-largest party — unexpectedly lost support. Final results for the National Council were expected by Monday. The makeup of the upper house, the 46-member Council of States, will be known in three weeks.
In Switzerland’s arcane electoral calculus, the outcome sets the stage for back-channel negotiations for the real prize: Seats in the seven-person Federal Council, the executive branch, which makes decisions behind closed doors and by consensus, and includes the president — a rotating post. The incoming assembly will choose that body’s makeup on Dec. 9, and the People’s Party wants a second seat.
Under the niceties of the Swiss political system, the People’s Party — already the country’s most popular political movement — holds one seat, while the Free Democrats and Social Democrats each have two. The People’s Party is particularly after the seat now held by Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who is from a far smaller, more moderated party that broke off from the nationalist party years ago.
“It’s important to listen to the Swiss people,” People’s Party leader Toni Brunner said. “The population has to be able to express itself.”