• Switzerland's news in English

SVP threatens to pull out of federal government

Malcolm Curtis · 13 Oct 2015, 11:19

Published: 13 Oct 2015 11:19 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The SVP currently has one of the government seats, held by Ueli Maurer, defence minister, although it holds more than a quarter of the seats in the upper house of parliament.

Felix Müri, an SVP MP from the canton of Lucerne who is vice-president of the party’s parliamentary group, made waves on Monday by saying the party is prepared to go into opposition if it fails to gain an extra seat in the government.

The SVP, a nationalist party which favours restrictions on immigration, has long been the most popular party in Switzerland, although it has been opposed by the other parties in the Swiss multi-party political system.

In 2007, it lost one of its two seats in the government when a moderate member of the party, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, agreed to seek election against the SVP’s Christoph Blocher, who was then an incumbent government minister.

Widmer-Schlumpf was elected but soon became a member of a new party, the Conservative Democratic Party (BDP), after she was booted out of the SVP.

She was subsequently re-elected to government in 2011 as a member of the BDP, leaving the SVP again with only one seat.

Government members are voted in by a joint assembly of the upper and lower houses of parliament following the federal elections held every four years.

Traditionally, the main parties agree to a coalition government with balanced representation from the left, right and centre.

So elections for government typically involve a lot of horse trading among parties.

But Müri said many SVP members are “fed up” with the current situation, which leaves the SVP under-represented in the government.

“If we do not get the second seat at the expense of the BDP, we will have Ueli Maurer withdraw from the Federal Council (government) and go into total opposition,” he told the Blick newspaper.

By tradition, government members do not voice disagreements publicly and always present a united front once government decisions have been made.

Going into opposition would allow the SVP to voice its views freely and to launch referendums on key initiatives.

Already, the SVP successfully spearheaded an initiative, approved by voters in February 2014 but opposed by the government, to curb immigration from the European Union.

Blick said the SVP is already showing traits of an opposition party “but the tone would worsen dramatically if the largest party were no longer represented in the government”.

Pascal Sciarini, a political scientist at the University of Geneva, said the SVP has actually been able to gain popular support by not having two members in the government.

“With one foot in government and the other foot outside government it is very profitable for (the party) electorally,” he told Le Temps newspaper.

Story continues below…

Sciarini said the system of electing the Swiss government, once referred to as the “magic formula” because of the way it balanced representation for the major parties, has changed.

Neither the “magic formula” nor a mathematical system of power sharing now exists but rather a system of “fluctuating consensus,” he said.

Swiss voters go to the polls on Sunday to elect MPs and members of the council of states (the senate, or upper house of parliament).

Polls show the SVP as the most popular party for the lower house but a proportional voting system means that seats will be allocated among several parties — 11 are currently represented.

By contrast, in the 46-seat senate, where members are voted by majority in each of the country's 26 cantons, the SVP only has six seats.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Protect Swiss waterways or lose our fish': WWF
Photo: Richi Stadelmann/WWF

Eighty-five percent of fish species in Switzerland are under threat, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

SBB pilots new annual pass – costing 12,200 francs
The 'door-to-door' pass includes use of an electric car. Photo: SBB

Swiss federal railways (SBB) is looking for 100 people willing to pilot a new annual transport pass that includes use of an electric car.

Immigration to Switzerland falls as emigration rises
File photo: The Local

Immigration in Switzerland has fallen considerably this year, according to official figures.

Wawrinka aces his way into Basel quarterfinals
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The home favourite returns to the quarterfinals of the Swiss Indoors for the first time in five years.

Illegal immigrant dies after setting himself on fire
The victim was treated at University Hospital Zurich. Photo: University Hospital Zurich

The 45-year-old Tunisian was threatened with deportation.

Swiss government rejects call for second immigration vote
Photo: Justus Blumer/Christophe G

The Swiss government has rejected a popular initiative calling for a revote on plans to limit immigration.

Bern: companies should report salary inequality by law
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The Swiss government wants to force small companies to examine their rates of pay every four years.

Husband in custody after Orbe body identified
File photo: Bas Leenders

The deceased is a 55-year-old woman who lived in the house with her husband.

Presented by MoneyPark
How to get a mortgage in Switzerland
Houses in Zürich. Photo: Pixabay.

Ready to buy? Here’s what you need to know as an expat about Swiss regulations, how to finance your purchase, and why you should use a broker.

Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available