Swiss campaigns trail off with far-right poised for gains

22nd October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Campaigning in Switzerland trailed off 24 hours before Sunday's Swiss federal elections, with the far-right poised to make gains on the back of its anti-immigration platform.

A survey by Swiss news agency AFP found that postal votes had been streaming in since last Sunday.

In Winterthur, about 38 percent of voters had already returned their ballot slips by Thursday.

In Zurich, 35.5 percent had done so, while in Basel, 42 percent had completed their election duties.

With total participation not expected to exceed 49 percent, the figures suggest that most votes are already in the ballot boxes.

As a result, many polling stations will be opened for just a few hours on Sunday morning, before ballot boxes are sealed at midday and taken to the counting centres.

As in the previous round of federal elections, the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) is set to improve its score, consolidating its position as the country's biggest political party.

With an unemployment rate of just 2.8 percent and healthy public finances and output figures, Switzerland is an island of prosperity in a Europe that is gripped by public debt woes.

Nevertheless, the SVP appears to have struck a chord with the population through its aggressive campaign claiming that the "mass immigration" of foreigners was taking away Swiss jobs.

It coupled its campaign with a pitch for a referendum aimed at requiring Switzerland to reintroduce its migration quota system for all foreigners, including EU citizens, a move which could scupper a bilateral deal with Brussels on the free movement of people.

As a result of its ubiqitous posters depicting a crowd in suits stamping across the Swiss flag, immigration is the top concern for the population, according to opinion polls ahead of the elections.

In fact, the surveys indicate that the SVP would better its 2007 score of 28.8 percent.

"An important issue at stake is whether the SVP will manage to maintain its 2007 score or improve it," said Pascal Sciarini, a political analyst.

"It's a very important point because it would mark the first time that a party has surpassed the 30 percent mark in Switzerland, which has not been the case since 1919," he added.

The Socialist Party meanwhile is seen obtaining 19.9 percent of the votes, while the centre right Radicals would have 15.2 percent of support and the Christian democrats just behind with 14.2 percent, according to opinion polls.

But beyond the far-right push, environmental parties are also set to gain seats, as concerns over the future of nuclear energy surfaced following Japan's Fukushima accident.

Support for the Green Party stabilised at 9.3 percent while that for the Liberal Green Party increased to 4.9 percent, up 3.5 points from the previous polls, according to surveys.

© 2011 AFP

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