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Switzerland - General Elections

Victory for the Swiss People's Party and clear regression for the Socialists in the Swiss Federal Elections

Victory for the Swiss People's Party and clear regression for the Socialists in the Swiss Federal Elections

22/07/2007 - Results

The Swiss People's Party (UDC/SVP) won the federal elections that took place in Switzerland on 21st October. The populist party that led an aggressive campaign focussed on the denunciation of foreign criminals achieved the best results in its history with 29% of the vote, (+2.3 points in comparison with the last federal election on 19th October 2003); it has won 62 seats (+7). The Christian Democratic Party (PDC/CVP) remained on an even keel with 14.6% of the vote (+ 0.2 point) and 3 additional seats (31). The Free Democratic Party (PRD/FDP) continued its slow decline winning 15.6% of the vote (- 1.7 points) and 31 seats (- 5). But the major loser in these elections was the Socialist Party (PSS/SPS) that won 19.5% of the vote (- 3.8 points) and 43 seats (- 9). The Green Party (PES/GPS) made progress especially in the major towns winning 9.6% of the vote (+ 1.7 points) and 20 seats (+ 6).
In the Council of States the Christian Democratic Party won 11 seats, the Free Democratic Party 9, the Swiss People's Party 7 and the Socialist Party 6.
An all time first occurred in the history of the Upper Chamber: the election of the first ecologist Counsellor, Robert Cramer, in the canton of Geneva.
Turnout was 48.8% slightly below the previous general elections on 19th October 2003 (+4.3) and the highest mobilisation in 25 years in the Swiss Confederation. The cantons of Schaffhausen and Valais had the highest turnout (65.3% and 59.8% respectively) whilst those of Appenzell Rhodes-Interior and Uri were the lowest (21.1% and 24.1% respectively). The increase in turnout was to the benefit of the Swiss People's Party.

"It is the best score achieved by a political party since 1919," declared Vice-Chairman of the Swiss People's Party, Yvan Perrin as soon as the results were announced. For his part the chairman of the Swiss People's Party, Ueli Maurer explained his party's success as follows: "Someone who is against Switzerland entering the European Union, who wants to pay less taxes, who wants more security and less foreign crime votes for the Swiss People's Party," adding "the question of joining the European Union should disappear from everyone's mind now. We are going to reduce taxes. We are going to provide security.". Finally he stressed that his party did not want to exclude the Socialist Party from the Federal Council (government) but has however asked that the three eldest Federal Counsellors – Pascal Couchepin (PRD/FDP), Moritz Leuenberger (PSS/SPS) and Samuel Schmid (PDC/CVP) – tender their seats during the appointment of the Federal Council planned for 12th December.

The Swiss People's Party has added a second victory to the one won in the previous federal elections on 19th October 2003. A remarkable fact: this rise to power by a populist party is a first in Europe improving its result from one election to another. "The workers, the former middle class of traders and artisans, farmers are most often amongst the losers, they make the Swiss People's Party successful," say political experts Pascal Sciarini and Sarah Nicolet from the faculty of Political Science at the University of Geneva. "Contrary to the Socialist Party and those in the centre, the Greens and the Swiss People's Party are parties of ideas. This explains their present success. Since the 60's the Greens have continued to develop. They attract a very young electorate," analyses writer and philosopher Jean Romain. "The electoral campaign was marked by a radicalisation of the political debate which is unique in Switzerland; it was largely dominated by the Swiss People's Party. Their style is provocative and it works when there are reactions. They have been campaigning like this for ten years and they have to flirt increasingly with racist stances in order to continue to stimulate reactions. But they have reached a limit beyond which they will start to lose voters," stressed Georg Lutz, political science professor at the University of Berne.

The Socialist Party is declining and achieved the lowest scores – below 20% – it achieved at the end of the 1980's. "It is a clear defeat," admitted its chairman Hans-Jürg Fehr. Vice-chairman Pierre-Yves Maillard denounced the opacity of the funding of political parties and asked for a popular initiative to change finance rules. The Socialist Party is declining in the cantons of Geneva, Berne, Basel and Zurich, a trend which benefits the ecologists. The latter were pleased with their excellent results. "Voters were sensitive to our ideas when changes in the climate are uppermost in their minds," said Ruth Genner, chair of the Green Party adding that she would not claim a seat for her party in the Federal Council.

Fulvio Pelli, chair of the Free Democratic Party admitted his party's failure speaking of a "clear defeat" even though he said he was not considering leaving his post. "I said that we would need five years to renew the party, but we haven't got there yet," he stressed. The Free Democratic Party's economic themes did not convince in the electoral campaign and its initiative with regard to taxation did not achieve the success that had been hoped for. Finally Christophe Darbellay, chair of the Christian Democratic Party said he was satisfied with his party's results in spite of the fact that they did not forge ahead of the Free Democratic Party contrary to the forecasts in some polls.

This new victory for the Swiss People's Party obliges the other political parties to modify their positions. The Socialist Party will have to choose between leaning more to the left or moving towards the centre of the political scale. As for the forces in the centre – the Free Democratic Party (PRD/FDP) and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC/CVP) –, they cannot avoid modifying their positions in preparation for a possible merger.
Although the victory achieved by the Swiss People's Party provides it with an advantage in the negotiations to come this will not lead to a re-composition of the famous "magic formula" applied in Switzerland since 1959 which obliges parties on the right and left to share ministerial portfolio.

Federal Election Results - 21st October - Switzerland

Turnout rate: 48.8%

National Council


Source: Federal Statistics Office (http://www.politik-stat.ch/nrw2007CH_fr.html)


State Council


Source: Federal Statistics Office (http://www.politik-stat.ch/nrw2007CH_fr.html)
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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