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Swiss national elections: 'return to normality'?

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Swiss national elections: 'return to normality'?
Toni Brunner, Swiss People's Party president, hailing the party's historic number of elected MPs. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
11:03 CEST+02:00
Is Switzerland now a divided country or were the results of Sunday's national elections merely a return to normality?

Reaction in Swiss media was mixed to the results, which saw the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) under the proportional voting system boost its representation in the 200-seat lower house of parliament by 11 seats to 65 seats.

Together with the centre-right Liberals (FDP), who gained three seats to 33, the two parties have a razor-thin majority in the lower house with the support of other small right-wing parties from Ticino and Geneva.

For Zurich daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the success of the two right-wing parties represents “a return to normality” after a period when the legislature was more complicated.

The SVP and the FDP have a duty to “explore common ground” in economic and social policies otherwise they face “gambling recklessly with their success”, the newspaper said.

The SVP, which has championed restrictions on immigration and raised concerns about asylum seekers, is at odds with the FDP, which wants to ensure for economic reasons that the freedom of movement of people accord with the EU remains in place.

Other parties, including the Socialists (43 seats, down from 46) and the centre-right Christian Democrats (28 seats, down from 29) are also opposed to the SVP planks on immigration.

Daniel Foppa, columnist for the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper said the historic election results leave Switzerland a divided country.

He noted the Green party and the Green Liberals were decimated, while the FDP shed their image as the “problem-causing” party of bankers to re-emerge as a group seen with “high economic competence”.

He said the SVP will now emphatically demand a second seat in the seven person government, where they currently only have one representative, Defence Minister Ueli Maurer.

But it is up to the party to present convincing candidates, Fopp said.

Many commentators said the vote leaves the future of federal government member Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf in doubt.

Members of the upper and lower houses of parliament will jointly elect the government on December 9th after a second round of voting determines seats in the 46-seat senate, where the SVP currently only has five seats.

Widmer-Schlumpf, a former SVP member, joined the newly formed Conservative Democratic Party (BDP) after being elected to the government in 2007, when she dislodged incumbent Christoph Blocher, a leading SVP politician.

The government currently is made up of two Liberal party members, two Socialists, one Christian Democrat and one SVP member, in addition to Widmer-Schlumpf.

Widmer-Schlumpf, currently finance minister, has benefited from the support of other parties who are unhappy with positions taken by the SVP, particularly on immigration.


But the SVP's “demonstration of force” shows it has rid itself of the image of a “big, nasty wolf,” Le Temps newspaper said, quoting political scientist Oscar Mazzoleni.

The Tribune de Genève said Widmer-Schlumpf's future “has never been so uncertain”, while 24 heures said her legitimacy was hanging “by a thread”.

The Basler Zeitung said it is obvious that the SVP, as the party with the most seats in parliament, should have two seats in the government.

Widmer-Schlumpf's BDP lost two seats in the lower house, leaving it with just seven MPs.

Other newspapers underlined that the SVP had to propose a credible candidate to gain the extra seat.

The right-wing nationalist party must demonstrate credibly that they want a serious and collegial role in government, the St. Galler Tagblatt said.

But the re-election of Widmer-Schlumpf “hardly justifies itself” after the weekend's election results, it concluded.

Election results for lower house of parliament:

(Figures in brackets show previous election results.)

Swiss People's Party: 65 (54)

Social Democrats: 43 (46)

Liberals: 33 (30)

Christian Democrats 28 (29)

Greens: 11 (15) 

Green Liberals: 7 (12)

Conservative Democrats: 7 (9)

Ticino League: 2 (2)

Evangelical People's Party:  2 (2)

Romandie Citizen's Movement (MCR): 1 (1)

Alternative Left: 1 (0)

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