Swiss Anti-Immigration Party (SVP) still the largest in the country

But loses some seats to two breakaway groups. Greens lose seats too

The Swiss People’s Party lost ground in parliamentary elections as voters boosted the share for smaller parties that campaigned for renewable energy and measures to support an economy hurt by a strong currency.

The People’s Party, or SVP in German, won 25.9 percent of the vote yesterday, down from 28.9 percent in 2007, according to Swiss television. The Green Liberal Party and the BDP, which split from the People’s Party three years ago, added votes.

Preliminary results show the Social Democrats are poised to get 18.1 percent of the vote, down from 19.5 percent in 2007, while the Liberal Party and the Christian Democrats fell to 15.3 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively.

“This shows that not everything is possible for the Swiss People’s Party,” Andreas Ladner, a professor at the University of Lausanne’s Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, IDHEAP, said by telephone from Zurich. “It’s not a complete defeat, but the expectations were very high and this could signal the end of the increasing popularity of the party.”

It’s the first time in two decades that the SVP, led by Toni Brunner, hasn’t boosted its popularity in federal elections. The party gained votes in recent years at the expense of the Liberals and the Christian Democrats by feeding concerns that the proportion of foreigners in Switzerland -- now at 22 percent -- is too high. The party also opposes European Union membership, military involvement abroad and higher government spending on social welfare.

‘Mass Immigration’

The Green Liberal Party was founded in 2004 and campaigned for renewable energy while also promoting entrepreneurship. The BDP campaigned mainly with Widmer-Schlumpf, who has been leading the country’s efforts to support companies that are hurt by a surging franc.

The SVP’s campaign of “Stop Mass Immigration” helped the party while the Social Democrats campaigned for a more equal distribution of wealth. The Christian Democrats support family- friendly plans while the Liberal Party aims to boost employment and improve trade.

While Switzerland’s adjusted jobless rate held at a 2 1/2- year low of 3 percent in September, Brunner’s strategy of blaming immigrants for domestic problems such as higher rents or rising crime has still resonated with voters.

SVP Vice President Christoph Blocher, a 71-year-old billionaire who is the party’s best-known politician, appeared set to return to the lower house of parliament.

All 246 seats were up for grabs in the Bern, Switzerland- based parliament, which is similar to the U.S. Congress, with one house representing the population and the other the 26 regions, or cantons.

New Minister

With 28 parties and one of the world’s most complicated election systems, the outcome is never clear-cut. The new parliament’s makeup helps determine who gets into the government, while there won’t be any coalitions formed between the different parties.

The Federal Council, the seven-member government, is elected by the parliament. With the resignation of Social Democrat Micheline Calmy-Rey, the foreign minister and current head of government, there will be at least one new minister named in December when the body is elected.

The Green Liberal Party grabbed 5.5 percent of the vote while the BDP got 5.4 percent, according to projections. Each party added nine seats in parliament and the SVP and the Greens each lost seven, Television Suisse Romande said on its website.

The growing popularity of the Green Liberals and the BDP “shows that the traditional parties have problems,” Ladner said. “The Liberals and the Christian Democrats are no longer attractive to the voters, and they’re voting for less extreme parties, those that haven’t been involved in everyday politics.”


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