Switzerland’s right-wing People’s Party (SVP), known by its German acronym, has secured one of its most significant electoral wins in recent years, garnering 28.6% of the votes in the national elections, marking a notable increase from their 25.6% performance four years ago. This triumph exceeded expectations set by opinion polls and came close to their record high of 29.4% achieved in 2015.
The SVP has been Switzerland’s most popular political party for approximately two decades, predominantly focusing on domestic concerns, particularly immigration and the economy. A central pillar of their agenda is to limit Switzerland’s population to 10 million people, citing concerns over strained infrastructure and housing shortages.
“The worry about an explosion of the population is big,” said Zurich-based SVP lawmaker Thomas Matter, who hopes that conservative parties will collaborate on immigration issues with the party, Bloomberg reports.
SVP also promotes the preservation of Switzerland’s traditional policy of neutrality, even in the face of calls for a more robust response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, they aim to cap the costs associated with transitioning to sustainable energy sources.
Not just Switzerland
The rise of conserve nationalism across Europe is notable, as similar movements have gained ground across the region. In Germany, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has experienced increased support in regional elections, while Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni continues to enjoy popularity in the polls after a year in office. Austria is witnessing the anti-immigrant Freedom Party leading the charge for the 2024 elections.
Swiss voter insecurity wasn’t helped by the collapse of Credit Suisse and its subsequent takeover by UBS Group AG in March, which cast a shadow over the stability of the Swiss banking system.
Nationally, the Social Democrats emerged as a distant second to the SVP, with the Centre Alliance narrowly surpassing the pro-business Free Democrats for third place. Switzerland’s two Green parties experienced a reversal in their gains made in 2019, according to official results.
That said, despite the election results, a shift in Switzerland’s executive branch is unlikely. The country’s seven-seat government is not formed by a coalition or an outright majority but rather by a compact between the largest parties. Lawmakers will elect ministers on December 13, and the centrists have already announced that they won’t challenge sitting members.
The SVP’s electoral victory translates into an additional nine seats in the 200-member lower house, raising their total to 62 seats.
The surge of conservatism in Switzerland is further underscored by the success of the MCG alliance in Geneva. This local populist group campaigned for preferential treatment of Swiss workers over their French counterparts while promoting left-wing social policies.
This electoral victory for the SVP could potentially intensify polarisation within Swiss politics, as some argue that the party should focus on more radical positions instead of seeking compromises, which have long been a hallmark of Swiss politics.
Georg Lutz, a professor of political science at Lausanne University, observed, “If the outlier parties score with a campaign like this, then there’s no incentive to collaborate.”
However, it’s important to note that the outcome of parliamentary elections in Switzerland holds less weight in determining future policy compared to other countries. The Swiss system regularly holds initiatives and referendums, providing voters with a direct say on a wide range of issues, from corporate taxes to immigration.
Finally, thanks to the frequency of votes held in Switzerland, the country has experienced a steady decline in voter turnout. While the 46.6% turnout on Sunday was higher than in 2019, it’s still one of the lowest in Europe.