The exit polls conducted for Switzerland’s public broadcaster indicated that the right-wing Swiss People’s Party was poised to solidify its standing as the largest faction in parliament. This election marked a turning point as the leading Green party faced a setback, losing ground.
Broadcaster SSR’s exit polls revealed that the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) was on track to secure 29% of the vote in the national balloting.
This marked an increase of nearly 3.5% compared to the previous election four years ago. The Socialists made gains of approximately 0.5 percentage points, while the Greens experienced a huge decline, losing over 4 percentage points and falling below the 10% mark.
The rise of the SVP in this election reflected a resurgence of right-wing populist politics in Switzerland. It was anticipated as pre-election polls had already suggested that the SVP would recover ground lost in 2019 when the Greens gained prominence amid growing concerns about climate change.
However, this time, pocketbook issues seemed to take precedence over environmental concerns. The cost of living, particularly surging health insurance costs, emerged as a central focus for voters.
Switzerland, despite its status as one of the world’s richest countries with low unemployment and high GDP per capita, was not immune to the economic challenges that resonated with its citizens.
The Swiss People’s Party already held the most seats in parliament, with over a quarter of seats in the lower house, followed by the Socialists. A development in this election was the emergence of a new political alliance called “The Center.”
This alliance, born from the 2021 fusion of the center-right Christian Democrat and Bourgeois Democrat parties, made its parliamentary election debut and appeared set to surpass the free-market Liberal party in voter support.
While no margin of error was provided in the exit polls, the official results were expected to be revealed in the coming hours.
However, it was clear that Swiss voters had three main preoccupations on their minds: rising fees for the obligatory, free market-based health insurance system; climate change, which had led to the erosion of Switzerland’s numerous glaciers; and concerns about migrants and immigration.
Outside a polling station in the Geneva neighborhood of Carouge, voters shared their perspectives. A retiree, Claudine Juillard, mentioned that she voted for a variety of candidates but leaned towards the Socialist party.
She emphasized that “life is getting more expensive, and it’s not easy.” This resonated with many Swiss citizens who were feeling the pinch of rising costs. On the other hand, Marine Chatelenat, a teacher, opted for a mix of Green and Socialist candidates.
She acknowledged the economic challenges but expressed her belief in the priority of addressing climate change, stating, “I can understand that when there are other problems, people say to themselves that the planet comes second.
But in fact, I don’t believe it. I believe that if there’s no planet, ultimately, those issues come second. So for me, that’s the priority for these elections.”
This division in voter priorities highlighted the balance that Switzerland, like many other nations, faced in addressing both immediate economic concerns and long-term environmental difficulties.
The result of the parliamentary election had more extensive ramifications for Switzerland’s executive branch, the seven-member Federal Council.
Switzerland’s President, Alain Berset, had decided to leave the government at the end of the year. He was set to be replaced by Vice President Viola Amherd, a centrist.
This shift in political dynamics and the composition of the Federal Council could influence Switzerland’s policies and its approach to key issues, both domestically and on the international stage.
The Swiss election results resonated with a broader trend seen across Europe. The rise of right-wing and populist movements in various European countries has been a recurring theme.
Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, hails from a party with neofascist roots, and far-right movements have gained ground in countries like Germany and Austria.
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