Far-right rise seen capped as greens advance in Swiss vote
Switzerland voted Sunday for a new parliament, with early results showing that the dominant far-right SVP's advance may have been capped by a breakaway group as well as an emerging green party.
While analysts do not expect the polls to shake up the parliamentary balance, they believe that a key issue will be whether the Swiss People's Party (SVP) manages to improve on its 2007 score of 28.8 percent.
Although it is the largest party in parliament, the SVP has been locked out of power by rivals fiercely opposed to its political platform.
In all, 246 seats are up for election, including 200 for the lower chamber and the rest for the senate.
Scattered results and projections almost five hours after polls closed at noon indicated that the SVP has managed to defend several seats, including in canton Aargau, and won a lower chamber seat in the small half canton of Nidwalden for the first time.
However, the party's best-known figure Christoph Blocher, a billionaire industrialist and former justice minister, looked set to lose his bid for a senate seat in canton Zurich.
SVP's chairman Toni Brunner would also have to go to a second round of polls in November for a senate seat as he failed to secure an absolute majority.
Rather, the relatively new Green Liberals appeared to be gaining ground.
They looked set to gain one seat at the expense of the SVP in Lucern.
In Zurich, the Green Liberals were projected to gain seven percent to poll 12.1 percent, on the back of concerns over the future of nuclear energy that surfaced after Japan's Fukushima accident.
The Conservative Democratic Party (BDP), which broke away from the SVP, was also eating into the far-right party's share of votes in Zurich.
"According to the trends, there are two winners -- the Green Liberals and the BDP. The major parties are stagnating or falling slightly," said political analyst Gilbert Casasus.
"It also appears that the SVP will not reach 30 percent. The advance of these previous years has stopped," he added.
With an unemployment rate of just 2.8 percent and healthy public finances and output figures, the alpine state is an island of prosperity in Europe.
While Swiss economic indicators look solid, the country's export-led industry has seen its earnings sharply reduced in recent quarters as the franc strengthened dramatically against the euro and US dollar.
The Swiss National Bank has since fixed a floor of 1.20 francs against the euro, but exporters are calling for more action.
As earnings come under pressure, some companies have instituted regimes such as longer working hours for less pay, or even cut jobs, all of which have contributed to the atmosphere of uncertainty.
With the uncertain climate, the SVP has sought to win votes through an aggressive campaign claiming that the "mass immigration" of foreigners was taking away Swiss jobs, or that they were here to claim social benefits.
This year, the party opted for an image of a crowd marching across the Swiss flag, with the slogan: "That's enough. Stop mass immigration."
© 2011 AFP