The Anti-Muslim immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP) wins largest share of vote in parliamentary election on Sunday, prompting talk of a “Rechtsrutsch slide to the Right,” keeping pressure on Bern to introduce quotas on Muslims moving into Switzerland.
UK Telegraph Success for the SVP, coupled with gains made by the pro-business Liberal Party (FDP), led political commentators to talk of a “Rechtsrutsch” – a “slide to the right” – in Swiss politics.
Immigration was the central topic for voters amid a rush of Muslim asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.
“The vote was clear,” SVP leader Toni Brunner told Swiss television. “The people are worried about mass migration to Europe.” Sunday’s result cemented the SVP’s position as the dominant force in Swiss politics.
It won 29.4 percent of the vote, according to the final tally from Swiss broadcaster SRF, up from 26.6 percent in the 2011 vote and far exceeding expectations. It was the best performance by a party in at least a century.
This translated to an extra 11 seats in Switzerland’s lower house of parliament to bring its tally to 65, the highest for any party since the chamber’s membership rose to 200 in 1963.
The election gains for the SVP, which was already Switzerland’s biggest single party, come 20 months after the Swiss in a referendum backed limits on foreigners living in the Alpine nation. The SVP had strongly supported the restrictions.
Lawmakers have until 2017 to reconcile this referendum result with an EU pact that guarantees the free movement of workers, otherwise the Swiss government must write quotas into law regardless of any compromise with the EU.
The Swiss system of direct democracy means citizens decide most major issues in referenda regardless of parliament’s makeup. But the latest right-wing gains should keep pressure on Bern to take a hard line with Brussels as it seeks to implement the immigration referendum.
During the election campaign, the SVP rallied against Swiss reforms to deal with asylum seekers, even though in Europe’s current migrant crisis Switzerland is handling far fewer migrants than some other nations such as Germany.
With slogans like “Stay free!” it has also played to fears that Switzerland may head towards EU membership, while also producing tongue-in-cheek YouTube music videos in a bid to appeal to younger voters.
Sunday’s result prompted calls from the right for greater representation in Switzerland’s seven-member governing council, the composition of which will be decided in December by parliament. The SVP and FDP currently have one seat each.
“I emphatically demand that the three biggest parties should each have two seats and the fourth biggest party one,” Brunner said.
“We’ve demanded this for years and for decades it was a recipe for success for Switzerland.”
Swiss Parliament member Oskar Freysinger’s impassioned speech about the threat of Islam still resonates today: