Swiss populist right makes gains ahead of polls over migrant fears

27th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland's populist right has seen its support swell ahead of parliamentary elections next month amid fears over the effects of Europe's migration crisis, a survey showed Sunday.

A poll published by the SonntagsBlick weekly showed 27.8 percent of those questioned threw their support behind the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party.

This is 1.2 percentage points more than SVP, already the largest party in the wealthy Alpine nation, scored in the last elections four years ago.

Another poll earlier this month showed that immigration and asylum issues topped the concern of Swiss voters ahead of the October 18 elections.

Immigration has long been a hot-button issue in the country, where foreign nationals make up about a quarter of its eight million inhabitants.

The arrival in Europe of some 500,000 migrants since the start of this year -- most of them refugees fleeing war and persecution in places like Syria -- had fuelled concern in Switzerland.

While it has so far has been spared the huge influxes seen elsewhere, there has been a sharp rise in asylum requests, mainly from Eritrea.

For all of 2015, Switzerland expects to receive some 29,000 asylum requests, up from 23,765 last year.

Sunday's survey, conducted by the OpinionPlus institute between September 17 and 21 of 1,007 Swiss citizens planning to vote, showed a full third of those questioned believed SVP was the most competent party to deal with the refugee crisis.

The party, which in the past has illustrated its programme with a picture of white sheep kicking a black sheep off the red and white Swiss flag, said Friday it wanted a referendum on Switzerland's new asylum law, which it warned was too lax and would act as "a powerful magnet for illegal immigrants."

Sunday's survey meanwhile showed the leftwing Swiss Socialist Party remains the country's second largest party with 19 percent support, up 0.3 percent from the 2011 elections.

SVP's expected dominance in the polls does not mean it will dominate the next government.

Posts in the seven-member, five party government, the Federal Council, which has no prime minister, are traditionally shared among the major parties from right to left under a tacit decades-old agreement dubbed "the magic formula".

Despite being the largest party, SVP currently holds just one government post, with Defence Minister Ueli Maurer.

© 2015 AFP

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