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Rightwing SVP expected to make gains in Swiss federal elections

The populist rightwing Swiss People’s party (SVP) is expected to make gains as the country votes in federal elections, after a campaign season centred on the cost of living and immigration.

Switzerland’s leading political party is predicted to garner 28.1% of the vote in Sunday’s election – an increase of 2.5 percentage points over its previous standing, according to polling by the Sotomo research institute.

Christian Imark, a member of the Swiss National Council from SVP, said he believed the party could boost its share of the vote because it had focused on immigration, energy security and energy costs.

The parliamentarian said he could feel a difference on the campaign trail compared with the previous election in 2019. “You feel it’s much better for us,” he said in a phone interview, noting that “people are coming” to campaign events “and they want to talk with us more than four years ago”.

The rising cost of living garnered significant attention in the campaign, in particular when it came to health insurance. Fabian Molina, a member of the Swiss National Council from the Social Democratic party, said: “For middle-class families, the rise of health insurance prices is the major problem in their daily budget.”

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Polling shows the Social Democratic party will make gains, coming in at 18.3%. The Centre party (Mitte) is at 14.3%, and the Liberals at 14.1%. The Greens are expected to face the biggest losses, polling at 9.7% – a decline of 3.5 percentage points.

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Green parties did well in Switzerland’s previous election, when climate issues were high on voters’ radars. “Four years ago, climate change was certainly the number one,” said Pascal Sciarini, dean of the Geneva School of Social Sciences. “This time, there is a competition between issues.”

The Greens acknowledge the challenge. “The cost of living is increasing, so it became the main topic for the population, unfortunately,” said Nicolas Walder, a member of the National Council and vice-president of the Swiss Greens.

But Green politicians also underscore that they still think Swiss voters are passionate about the climate. Margot Chauderna, another vice-president of the Swiss Green party and co-president of the Young Greens in Switzerland, said “the climate is still a central concern” for voters.

“We are the voice of the climate in parliament,” she added, noting that, in a key campaign moment for the Greens, more than 60,000 recently demonstrated in Berne “to say, ‘Hey, we still care about the environment, we are still in an emergency.’”

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Line Rennwald, a senior researcher at the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences, said she expected this election to be a return to more traditional vote shares.

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“This year’s election is more a return to normality,” she said, adding that the impact on Switzerland’s leadership will be limited. “It’s almost certain that the composition of the government will not be affected by this election.”

But, she noted, “the share of the different parties in parliament matters. Probably the rightwing parties will increase the number of their seats,” Rennwald said, leading to changes “on some specific issues”.