Swiss rightists win parliament vote

ZURICH Mon Oct 22, 2007 11:50am BST

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ZURICH (Reuters) - The right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) boosted its standing as the biggest group in parliament on Sunday, scooping nearly 29 percent of the vote after a controversial election campaign.

The SVP said it would not rock the boat by demanding a shake-up in the country's coalition government or Federal Council, a seven-seat executive composed of ministers from the four biggest parties.

The SVP's victory was widely expected after it ran a campaign focused on its populist leader figure, Christoph Blocher, and an initiative to expel the "black sheep" in Swiss society or those foreigners who commit serious crimes.

Its campaign was criticised by opponents and emotions boiled over into rare scenes of violence at an SVP rally in Berne.

Party president Ueli Maurer said the result was the best showing for a political party in Switzerland since 1919 and vowed to push ahead with the SVP's agenda, which includes scrapping any remaining plans for Switzerland to join the EU.

"The question of European Union accession should disappear from the last brain now," Maurer said after initial results were announced. "We will lower taxes. We will create security."

The party increased its share of the vote by 2.1 percentage points, or three times more than expected, according to a national projection based on partial results and provided by Swiss broadcaster SF.

Switzerland's around 4.9 million voters cast their ballots to fill 200 seats in the National Council, the lower house, on a proportional basis. They also elected 46 cantonal representatives to the Council of States, the upper house.

The Federal Council is elected by parliament in December following a general election.

GREENS GAIN

The SVP's closest rivals, the Social Democrats (SP), lost some 4 percentage points to 19.1 percent of the vote.

"This is a clear defeat," said Hans-Juerg Fehr, president of the Social Democrats. Analysts said some of the party's votes had gone to the Greens, who took 9.5 percent of the vote amid concerns about climate change.

The Greens also won their first seat in the Senate.

"This is a big milestone for us," said Ruth Genner, president of the Green party.

The centre-right Free Democrats (FDP) took 15.9 percent of the vote in the alpine nation, a slight decline from 2003, while the centre-left, family-friendly Christian Democrats were steady at 14.6 percent.

The SVP's tactics have roiled the waters of Switzerland's traditionally consensus-led politics but the Swiss political system means no one party exerts too much influence.

Government decisions can be subject to a public vote and therefore lawmakers tend to seek consensus solutions when drafting legislation.

All four parties are all represented on the seven-seat Federal Council. The SVP, SP and FDP currently hold two seats, while the CVP has one seat.

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